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

Synchronoss Technologies announced today that it won the contract to provide the platform for a new joint venture that will see the biggest U.S. carriers deploy messaging services based on the Rich Communications Services (RCS) standard.

The RCS standard has been a long time in development—it was at one point known as joyn in the GSMA—and just last month, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint announced they were creating a joint venture, the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), to deliver a messaging service based on RCS. The standard initially was created in response to the OTT players eating carriers’ SMS lunch. 

Without naming names, Synchronoss President and CEO Glenn Lurie said a lot of players were vying for the business, and it was a hard-fought RFP process. However, Synchronoss had a few things going for it, including success with carriers in Japan who wanted a service that would go up against the popular Line app. Synchronoss brings that experience as well as scale, he said. Its technology partner is WIT Software. 

Lurie, who spent 27 years in the carrier space before joining Synchronoss in 2017, remembers the days when U.S. carriers were reaping the revenue benefits from SMS and those days are long gone. 

Now in Japan with Line and in China with WeChat, those over-the-top applications have become incredibly powerful and successful at taking the lion’s share of revenue opportunities. An estimated 70% of the Chinese population goes into WeChat in the morning and never comes out, according to the company. Consumers can text and message friends, pay restaurant tabs, share location and photos and more.

U.S. carriers can see what’s happening and RCS is a way to counteract that trend.

“This is one of those opportunities to put together an ecosystem that they’re seeing in other parts of the world is working,” Lurie said, like Japan, where Synchronoss is working with NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and SoftBank on a successful RCS-based service. 

“I think the carriers are going to continue to look for new opportunities and be open to new opportunities that make sense that would bring in incremental revenue,” which is what Synchronoss does, including in the cloud business, he said.

Google is not part of this initiative, but it has been a big proponent of RCS, bringing RCS chat to its Google Fi network and supporting it via Android phones.

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Lurie said the experience with RCS is completely different than what the U.S. consumer typically gets. “We think it’s one of the biggest opportunities for the carriers for years to come,” he said.

Today, if your flight is late, the airline will send a text to your phone with a link to an app. But in RCS, the consumer doesn’t have to leave the messaging app. In the future, it will allow the carriers to play a much different role in consumers’ lives. “This is about simplifying people’s lives,” Lurie said.

Synchronoss has the capability to deliver on both Android and Apple iOS devices; Lurie could not speak to the plans of the JV. The CCMI has said it’s working to develop and deploy an RCS-based messaging service starting with Android in 2020.