Canadian operator Rogers Communications is the second major carrier to jump aboard Google’s RCS train, following Sprint’s launch last month on Android devices. RCS messaging brings enhanced features like group chat, high-resolution photo sharing and more to the standard SMS experience.
Announced in a blog post by Google’s head of RCS, Amir Sarhangi, the pact with Rogers means its customers will have access to enhanced features as part of their standard messaging experience on Android so long as they download the Messenger app from the Google Play Store. Next year, Rogers intends to preload Messenger as the standard messaging app for new Android devices.
“We’re excited to be the first Canadian provider to bring Messenger for Android to its customers,” said Leroy Williams, VP Rogers Wireless Services, in a prepared statement. “These features offer new, fun and easy ways for people to stay connected and we believe our customers are going to really enjoy it.”
The GSMA has been trying to rally operators around the RCS standard for years, positing it as a tool to compete with OTT players like WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage, which have eaten into carriers’ SMS revenues. RCS is sort of the next evolution of SMS, allowing users, for example, to see when others are typing, when a message gets delivered and when the person on the other end is typing a reply.
Sarhangi is the former CEO and co-founder of Jibe Mobile, which Google bought last year, giving it expertise around RCS and the ability to foster the ecosystem. Google acknowledged when it bought Jibe that it would take time and collaboration throughout the wireless industry to get RCS fully deployed, and that's certainly borne true.
During his appearance at the Code Conference in Los Angeles this past summer, Google CEO Sundar Pichai mentioned RCS and said Google is working with carriers to have an interoperable messaging standard. He also said he would love to see users on iOS be able to message users on Android and vice versa and he hopes the industry moves in that direction.
The GSMA announced in February that the internet giant would create an RCS client for Android, and Google at that time said it would offer the RCS Android client later this year, a promise it’s making good on now. According to Google, more than 58 carriers and manufacturers have committed to supporting a single, standard implementation of RCS, with heavyweights like América Móvil, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone behind the effort.
Sarhangi said the company looks forward to launching RCS with more partners in the coming months.