T-Mobile launches RCS-based native video calling feature

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is launching a native video calling service on its network, though the service is only available right now on a handful of new Samsung Electronics smartphones. The announcement comes a little more than a month after T-Mobile unveiled new messaging services based on Rich Communication Services (RCS) technology. 

When T-Mobile launched its RCS-based "Advanced Messaging" service in July, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said the carrier would launch other new features based on RCS. Advanced Messaging supports a number of services, including group messaging, message delivery and read-mail notices, and the ability to send high-resolution photos and videos up to 10 MB. Ray has said T-Mobile's launch of RCS stems from the carrier's launch last year of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services.

Ray said T-Mobile's "Video Calling" works out-of-the-box from customers' smartphone dialer and customers can choose either the video call button or voice call button.
 
The service works on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and customers can get access to it now via software updates. Software updates for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will be available next week, and T-Mobile will add support for three more unnamed devices by year-end.
 
On devices with T-Mobile Video Calling, Ray said in a blog post that small camera icons appear next to contacts with devices able to receive video calls. If the person a subscriber is calling can't take video calls, the video call icon is grayed out. Ray said T-Mobile is working with other carriers so that customers can eventually enjoy built-in video calling across different wireless networks.

Ray said customers can make native video calls to and from capable devices on any available LTE connection using data straight from customers' high-speed data bucket, as well as over Wi-Fi. "Like HD Voice calls, T-Mobile Video Calling moves seamlessly between LTE and Wi-Fi," Ray said. "And, if you move off LTE or Wi-Fi to a slower connection, your video call seamlessly switches over to a voice call. If you move back to LTE or Wi-Fi, switch it back to video with a single tap."

A T-Mobile spokeswoman said that the carrier's Video Calling feature will burn through around 6 MB of data per minute of video calling at the high end but typically less. Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) says that VoLTE-based video calling gets deducted from a subscriber's data bucket and that a video call using VoLTE will consume around 6-8 MB of data per minute of calling.

Under Verizon's VoLTE service, VoLTE-powered video calling is also natively enabled in the phone's dialer. Customers can use either the phone's rear or front-facing cameras in video calls and can switch back and forth. Customers can also switch off the video portion of the call and can continue the conversation with an audio-only call. If subscribers have their contacts backed up in Verizon's cloud (and not Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) cloud, for example), they will be able to see on their contact cards whether the person they are calling is using a VoLTE-capable phone, but not necessarily whether they are in an LTE coverage area.

For more:
- see this T-Mobile blog post

Related articles:
Verizon's Small: We have close to 4M VoLTE customers
T-Mobile launches RCS services under 'Advanced Messaging' brand, with support from Samsung phones
Verizon: Customers have made more than 1B HD Voice calls over VoLTE since September
Verizon, AT&T to launch VoLTE-to-VoLTE calling interoperability in 2015
Verizon to launch VoLTE in the 'coming weeks,' will enable native video calling

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