Google delivers RCS to U.S. Android users

It’s been four years since Google acquired Jibe Mobile for its Rich Communications Services (RCS) expertise, and this week Google announced it’s bringing RCS chat services to Android users in the U.S.

Google has been a big proponent of RCS for quite some time, but its rollout was limited. On Thursday, the company said that while chat features are already available for some users in Messages, it’s starting to broadly roll them out in the U.S.

For those users who already have Messages, they’ll be prompted to enable chat features in the coming weeks. For those who don’t have Messages, they can download it on the Play Store.

“To make your conversations more seamless, we’ve worked on upgrading traditional SMS text messaging with more useful chat features, powered by RCS (Rich Communication Services),” Google Product Management Director Sanaz Ahari wrote. “When you and your friends message each other with these chat features, you can chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, and see if people have received your latest messages. Plus, you’ll get better group chats, with the ability to name groups, add and remove people to and from groups, and see if people haven’t seen the latest messages.”

Earlier this year, Google enabled the ability for anyone in the U.K,. France, and Mexico to get chat features in Messages, and it expects the service to be broadly available in the U.S. by the end of the year.

Coincidentally (or not), the Big 4 U.S. wireless operators last month announced a joint venture, the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), to deliver a messaging service based on RCS, the GSMA-led industry standard that has been in the works for more than a decade. The standard initially was created in response to OTT players taking over the messaging space.

RELATED: Synchronoss wins RCS contract with Big 4 U.S. carriers

Synchronoss Technologies earlier this week announced that it won the contract to provide the platform for the CCMI, which includes AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. Synchronoss is working with technology partner WIT Software; the two companies last year partnered with Japanese operators KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank to deliver an interoperable RCS-based advanced messaging cross-operator platform for Japanese mobile users. The service in Japan is called +Message, and it launched in May, primarily in response to Line.

Operators in the U.S. have seen the success of OTT players like Line in Japan and WeChat in China, where users enter the app in the morning and conduct all of their business there throughout the day—everything from paying a restaurant tab to locating nearby friends.

Synchronoss CEO Glenn Lurie described RCS as one of the biggest opportunities for the carriers for years to come, allowing them to provide a much more significant role in consumers’ lives.

CCMI has said its service will enable users to privately send individual or group chats across carriers with high quality pictures and videos and provide consumers with the ability to chat with brands, order a rideshare, pay bills, schedule appointments and more.

Lurie’s company has the capability to deliver on both Android and Apple iOS devices; the CCMI has said it will deploy an RCS-based messaging service starting with Android in 2020.