Jibe Mobile CEO says RCS isn't dead, points to native IP messaging embedded on smartphones

BARCELONA, Spain--Jibe Mobile CEO Amir Sarhangi thinks Rich Communications Services (RCS), carriers' answer to over-the-top messaging services, is not dead--far from it. For a long time it was hard to take that position seriously, but Sarhangi said that there is growing momentum behind RCS because smartphone makers are embedding phones with RCS software, which combines IP messaging and traditional SMS messaging into a single service.

Here at Mobile World Congress, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint (NYSE: S), Vodafone and KPN demonstrated how Jibe's RCS Hub enables the carriers' customers to send RCS messages, even group messages, instantaneously to each other. The hub provides access to carriers that have launched joyn-branded RCS around the globe via a single interconnection. Sarhangi told FierceWireless that Jibe will soon announce two more European operators that will be joining the hub.

Jibe claims that its IP communications cloud platforms enable carriers to launch their rich new RCS/joyn messaging services in six to 10 weeks, compared with a traditional RCS deployment time of 18 months via IMS vendors such as Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Mavenir. According to Sarhangi, 43 operators around the world are using RCS and 80 others will launch RCS this year.

The momentum is growing, Sarhangi said, because OEMs are finally starting to embed RCS on their phones. For years, joyn was an afterthought, especially outside of Europe, mainly because consumers could not get access to it out of the box, which made it hard for carriers to push RCS as an alternative to OTT messaging apps such as WeChat and Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB) WhatsApp.

"A year ago, it would have been hard for me to defend the position" that joyn is not dead, Sarhangi said. "Right now ... the key driver for IP messaging is native devices. That's always been in the cards. That's always been the plan."

Sarhangi admits that it took a while for the wider industry to rally behind RCS, but now "every major Android OEM" embeds joyn natively on devices for carriers that ask for it, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, HTC and Sony. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) do as well for their phones, and joyn is available on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS as a client. Sarhangi estimated that it will probably be one or two iPhone update cycles, so perhaps late 2015 or late 2016, before Apple decides to fully interoperate with RCS.

Although he said he could not quantify the number of users who have native RCS messaging applications on their phone, Sarhangi said it was likely in the millions. Further, he said that over 95 percent of consumers who have native RCS use the service.

"There's such a misperception in the market today over how many users still use SMS," he said. Sarhangi said SMS remains the "only ubiquitous way to communicate between users today" and that RCS makes every SMS user an IP messaging user as well.

For Jibe, the company will keep focusing on enabling interoperability nationally and internationally. "The momentum buildup we have had on cloud has been quite amazing," Sarhangi said, adding that the company plans to expand beyond the U.S. and Europe. "The hub only matters if there are people on the hub," he said, adding that Jibe wants to try to triple the number of carriers using its RCS Hub to about 18 by year-end. Although he declined to spell out Jibe's financials, Sarhangi said that over the past three years the company has either doubled or tripled its growth on a year-over-year basis.  

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