MetroPCS and Jibe opening joyn to all North American wireless customers

BARCELONA, Spain--To help seed the market for Rich Communications Services (RCS), MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) will enable its customers to invite friends and family to access the operator's joyn-branded services, regardless of which wireless network they are on.

MetroPCS' customers will be able to use Jibe Mobile's Global Communications Cloud to invite contacts in their address books who are on any wireless network in Canada, Mexico and the United States to download a joyn-compliant client onto their phone, tablet or other device. Once the client is loaded, the user will gain access to MetroPCS' joyn services, such as Wi-Fi calling and video calling, enhanced instant messaging or chat and simplified content sharing.

The companies said the service will be available later this year.

MetroPCS is the first U.S. mobile operator to offer RCS 5.0 services on an LTE network. The operator, which is slated for acquisition by T-Mobile USA later this year, began offering joyn services in October 2012. All of MetroPCS' LTE handsets now support joyn via a downloadable client available in Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play storefront.

Jibe's downloadable client is aimed at encouraging mass adoption of joyn by virally spreading the service's capabilities to non-MetroPCS customers. This is particularly important in the case of a smaller operator such as MetroPCS because there is less of a chance that a MetroPCS customer's friends and family also use the same network. That likelihood is further reduced by the fact that MetroPCS is a regional provider with a relatively limited footprint,

"As far as we know, we are the only RCS provider that offers this service and this very unique way of bridging the rest of the world with an operator's joyn network," Amir Sarhangi, Jibe's CEO, told FierceBroadbandWireless during the Mobile World Congress trade show here, where his company is exhibiting. "What we're doing here is leveling the playing field."

When a MetroPCS customer makes a joyn call to a non-MetroPCS customer, the call goes from the joyn client in the customer's device to MetroPCS' network to Jibe's cloud-based service to the non-MetroPCS subscriber's device with the new downloadable RCS client in North America, said Sarhangi.

A MetroPCS customer inviting others to download the joyn app is akin to a person inviting associates to adopt an over-the-top (OTT) app such as Skype or Tango, he said.

That, of course, fits nicely with joyn's mission of enabling operators to compete against, and also cooperate with, OTT providers. The GSMA has trademarked the joyn name as the consumer-facing brand for RCS, but it is also aimed at creating a unified market that will attract compatible apps from developers.

"If you think about a developer launching a new app that leverages the capabilities of joyn through an operator, these developers want to launch globally not just through on operator. So this becomes a very important part of the success of joyn in the future," said Sarhangi.

He noted that SMS was slow to take off in the United States because SMS services were initially not interoperable across different operators' networks. However, SMS use skyrocketed once interoperability was enabled across networks, something MetroPCS and other joyn supporters obviously hope to replicate by fostering RCS interoperability.

"Our goal with joyn by MetroPCS was to give consumers a new intuitive and unified communications experience and we are excited about the potential that now exists, through Jibe, for subscribers outside the MetroPCS network to adopt and experience the full range of features and services made possible by RCS," said Roger Linquist, CEO and chairman of MetroPCS. "We are committed to working with operators and over-the-top providers to demonstrate the benefits of joyn, ensure that true interoperability from any device and carrier is achieved and ultimately see mass adoption of RCS services on a scale similar to SMS or text services."

The jury is still out on whether the GSMA's RCS/joyn initiative will be successful, but joyn has gained significant traction in certain markets. Earlier this month, South Korea's SK Telecom announced it has signed on 1 million subscribers to its joyn service, which launched at the end of 2012.

For more:
- see this MetroPCS and Jibe release

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