Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile finally rally around RCS

The Big 4 U.S. wireless operators announced that they’ve created a joint venture, aptly named the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), to deliver a messaging service based on Rich Communications Service (RCS), the GSMA-led industry standard that has been in the works for more than a decade.

Initially created in response to the OTT players eating carriers’ SMS lunch, the RCS messaging format has been slow to get adopted on a wide scale, even with the support of Google. Now Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile say the CCMI joint venture is working to develop and deploy an RCS-based messaging service starting with Android in 2020.

Specifically, they said that the CCMI service will drive a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem and accelerate the adoption of RCS while enabling an “enhanced experience” to privately send individual or group chats across carriers with high quality pictures and videos.

It will also provide consumers with the ability to chat with brands, order a rideshare, pay bills or schedule appointments.

RELATED: Report: Verizon to launch RCS messaging in early 2019

This being a GSMA-led endeavor, the RCS service will be interoperable across carriers both in the U.S. and globally. Other than that, not a lot of details were included in the press release, with the group promising more details to come later.

The move comes after the same U.S. operators announced they would collaborate around an authentication process called ZenKey to ultimately eliminate the need for customers to enter passwords to access information from their phones.

RELATED: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint rally behind ZenKey for authentication

GSMA created the technical specification so that every operator that launches around the world does it in a way that makes it interoperable. “We recognize that certain markets are at different stages of development,” so there are other ways to do authentication, but the base is the same, said Ana Tavares Lattibeaudiere, head of GSMA North America on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress Los Angeles this week.

“We want to incentivize every operator around the world to launch for their own country, but we also want to make it so that if you have a global brand that wants to launch a service that they can do it across every country and every user,” she said. They might call it something else, like Mobile Connect or like in the U.S., it’s ZenKey, but at the end of the day, it will be interoperable. “That’s the main objective,” she said.

About 70 operators around the world have deployed it; many started by launching on their own websites, she said. América Móvil has millions of users already, for example.