Making RCS Happen


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The RCS initiative aims at bringing IP communication services to a state-of-the-art level of maturity where their
usage would be straightforward and their reach would
be ubiquitous.

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Making RCS Happen

  1. 1. Making RCS Happen White Paper
  2. 2. About Comverse Comverse is a leading global provider of telecom business more than 125 countries with solutions successfully delivered to solutions that enable communication service provider success in over 450 communication service providers serving more than two the hyper-connected world through service innovation and smart billion subscribers. Comverse’s solutions are available in a variety monetization. The company’s proven and innovative product of delivery models, including on-site, cloud, hosted/SaaS and portfolio includes BSS, Policy Management (PCRF) and Enforcement managed services. For more information, visit and Digital & Value Added Services – all backed by Managed and Professional Services. Comverse’s extensive customer base spans For more information, visit Copyright ©2013 Comverse, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Comverse, its logo, the spark design, Kenan and Netcentrex are registered trademarks of Comverse Technology, Inc., or its subsidiaries, in the United States and may be registered in other countries. Other denoted product names of Comverse or other companies may be trademarks or registered trademarks of Comverse, Inc. or its subsidiaries, or their respective owners.
  3. 3. Making RCS Happen Contents 04 . . . . Introduction 05 . . . . Background 05 . . . . Network Transformation Towards the IP Era 06 . . . . What Is RCS? 06 . . . . Internet Service Alternatives 07 . . . . Highlights of RCS Specifications 08 . . . . The Promise of RCS 08 . . . . Just There, Just Works 08 . . . . The Real Deal 09 . . . . The Challenge 09 . . . . A Paradigm Shift Is Required 09 . . . . The Challenging Interim Phase in an Ecosystem-Dependent Promise 10 . . . . A Growing Sense of Urgency 11 . . . . Suggested Tactics for Making RCS Happen 1 . . . . From Irrelevant Incumbent to Relevant Challenger 1 12 . . . . Address Your Subscribers – Not Theirs 12 . . . . New RCS Services for a Well Developed User Base 12 . . . . Segment and Conquer 13 . . . . Erroneous Tactics Resulting from Non-Relevant Paradigm: RCSe 15 . . . . Comverse Digital and Value Added Services 16 . . . . Wrap Up
  4. 4. Introduction IP communication services have profoundly changed the way we communicate, collaborate, share experiences and lead our daily lives. They define groundbreaking user experiences and deliver communication services to a multitude of devices: tablets, smartphones, laptops, PCs and TVs – effectively usurping the phone’s status as the central means of communication. Key telecom service concepts such as long distance and roaming charges are losing their relevance in an IP world. When compared to traditional telephony (Time Division Multiplexing – TDM), the flexibility and low capacity costs of IP enable communication service providers (CSPs) to reduce their operational costs. This higher value / lower costs equation leads to a simple conclusion: a decline of TDM-based communication services and an inevitable shift to IP communication services. On a network level, CSPs have yielded to the consumer demand for greater bandwidth and capacity by transforming their networks to all-IP, further strengthening the momentum towards IP communication. However, on the services side, they lag far behind Internet players. In 2007, the GSMA published the Rich Communication Suite (RCS) specification, which clearly defined a modern framework for IP communication services (Services Platform) and detailed the optimal suite of rich, interoperable, IP communication services that should ultimately be delivered by any modern CSP. The hope of the initiative was that RCS would be developed, deployed and adopted alongside the advancement in IP networks and access services. 4 15 Making RCS Happen However, the hope has not been realized, and the delay in the development of services created a substantial gap in which Internet-based communication players have developed, grown and staked their claim in the IP communication domain. The result is that CSPs are not perceived as IP communication service providers. If this perception remains, CSPs will inevitably be reduced to the role of mere network CSPs. The RCS initiative aims at bringing IP communication services to a state-of-the-art level of maturity where their usage would be straightforward and their reach would be ubiquitous. In an expression coined by GSMA, RCS is about IP communication services that are “just there, just work”. This creates a very high value proposition that can be only realized by the telecom industry. The key strength and enabler of this value proposition is the ecosystem of CSPs, device manufacturers, system vendors and users joining forces and working together to realize this promise. However, the late entry of CSPs into the IP communication market turns this key strength into a key weakness, as it will take at least two years for the RCS ecosystem to come to fruition. Until that happens, RCS services face a significant challenge in trying to stand out in a market congested with free, innovative, popular, Internet-based IP communication services. Without significant uptake, the ecosystem cannot be realized and RCS will remain a “too little too late” failed attempt of the telecom industry. The key challenge in making RCS happen is not a technical challenge but rather a marketing challenge. That is the focus of this whitepaper.
  5. 5. Background Network Transformation Towards the IP Era Telecom network CSPs are undergoing a major shift from a telephony (Circuit Switch – TDM) network to a computer (Packet Switch – IP) network. This transformation is due to a clear and ongoing trend: increased data traffic, with a need for high bandwidth for more and more users. Networks are finding it tough to keep up with this rapidly evolving traffic and the demands of customers for new services and applications. In order to deliver this traffic correctly, the transport infrastructure will continue to evolve. IP is seen as the way forward and the need for all-IP networks has never been greater. The IP communication experience is not new to consumers. Early adopters and the young generation are already utilizing IP-enabled rich communication services provided by Internet players who evolved IP rich communication from its bleeding edge phase in the late 1990s to mid-2000s, to its current leading edge phase. Soon all CSPs around the globe, fixed and mobile, will be managing such interconnected, carrier-class computer networks. Towards this end, CSPs are investing unprecedented capital, and are undergoing significant organizational and operational transformation. A native IP network has very little in common with a legacy TDM network. The new IP network implements a fundamentally different networking philosophy that changes network operation from the ground up and, as a result, requires a whole different skill set from network planners, managers and service designers. The IP network also introduces much higher capacity and QoS flexibility, enabling a far richer set of communication services. When it comes to communication services, instead of connecting the CSP’s services garden to its subscribers’ phones, the new IP network interconnects between the CSP’s garden, the Internet’s open garden and every IP-enabled consumer device – smartphones, tablets, PCs, TV, etc. It does not, however, connect phones per-se. That is, every communication service, even the basic voice service, requires a software implemented client on the user’s device. Technology Lifecycle With the shift to IP networks, CSPs are now set to further evolve IP communications services to a state-of-the-art phase. Making RCS Happen 51 5
  6. 6. What is RCS? The high capacity, flexibility and agility of IP networks enable new, media-enhanced communication services plus significant enrichment of existing services. Hence, with the evolution to an IP network, there is an obvious need to rethink core services. With telephony networks, CSPs had one core service – voice – along with a minimal set of value-added messaging services. The questions now are how CSPs should migrate their existing services to IP and what new services they should offer. In other words, what new base set of services should customers expect to get from CSPs in the IP era? The GSMA’s Rich Communication Suite (RCS) initiative answers this question. RCS specifications clearly define a modern framework for communication services (Services Platform) and detail the optimal suite of rich, IP-based communication services that should be offered on this modern platform – see Highlights of RCS Specifications (page 7). RCS specifies exactly what standards should be utilized for each feature and service, and then goes the extra mile to define the User to Network Interface (UNI) or basic user experience (UX) that should be implemented for these services. It thereby assures that these services will be globally interoperable, automatically discoverable, and that the UX will be straightforward and generally uniform across all platforms, CSPs and continents. Internet Service Alternatives As mentioned above, none of the RCS services are new to consumers today. Utilization of IP to deliver rich communication experiences (IM, VoIP, video, social communication) was started by Internet startups in the late 90s, and was adopted and further developed by the big Internet technology players (Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook). These types of communication have profoundly changed the way that people communicate, share their everyday experiences and stay in touch. As such, RCS services come to serve the customers’ well-developed needs and expectations of modern, IPbased, communication services. RCS is set to deliver an experience beyond voice and SMS by providing users with instant messaging or chat, live video sharing and file transfer across any device, on any network, with anyone in their mobile address book 6 15 Making RCS Happen
  7. 7. Highlights of RCS Specifications An RCS Service Platform Should Enable: Capability/Service Discovery RCS Services (Based on RCS 5.1) Standalone Messaging User A can determine what services are available before Replacing and modernizing SMS and MMS, it adds group initiating communication with User B (Capability Discovery). messaging with reply to all, multi-device capability with no limitations on size and type of message. Includes fallback to Service Providers (SPs) can roll out new, agreed-upon legacy SMS/MMS for users without RCS capability. services based on their own deployment schedule or One-to-One Chat market requirements (Service Discovery). User alias and notifications for Delivered, Displayed and Is Auto Provisioning, Auto Client Configuration Composing. and Auto User Registration Gives the user the impression that the new services work out of the box; minimizes the operational impact on SPs. End User Confirmation Request Group Chat Multiple party chat. File Transfer Allows the SP to inform the user about a certain situation by Exchange content (files) during a call or in a standalone opening an information dialog box and asking the user to manner. confirm or decline the proposed request. Content Sharing Multi-Device Support Share videos and pictures in near real-time during a call or A user can interact with a service via any connected device in a standalone manner. that is technically capable of initiating or terminating the service – e.g., mobile phone, tablet, PC, TV. When the Social Presence Information recipient accepts or rejects a call from any of the devices, Share availability, portrait icon, status text, links, and user the other devices will stop alerting. location & time zone with selected contacts. Geolocation Services Security and Privacy Mechanisms to ensure user authentication, secure user communications and enable users to control the Push or pull location information and optional descriptive text to or from another RCS subscriber. information they share. IP Voice Call Personal Network Blacklists User may block undesired communication, messages and IP Video Call media. Network Store Enables service synchronization between multiple devices and optional auto-archiving of communication history. For the latest RCS specification go to the GSMA website: Making RCS Happen 51 7
  8. 8. The Promise of RCS CSPs who facilitate a large eco-system of CSPs, network equipment vendors, device manufacturers and third-party developers. This places these services at the core of the communication service package and enables seamless, system-wide integration of the client and user interface into operating systems of IP-enabled devices (mobile devices, PCs and TVs). Consequently, subscribers can initiate any service via a very simple, straightforward interface on any device, without wondering if the other party can receive such communication. Just There, Just Works Internet players enable a vast selection of innovative rich communication services with admirable user experiences. However, these independent service providers are creating silos of users and services that will never interconnect. Furthermore, registration and usage of these Internet services requires the user to have a relatively high level of technology awareness. The vision of the RCS initiative is to create such services that work out of the box with carrier grade quality. Or as the GSMA puts it, these services should be just there, just work for every subscriber on every device. This will define IP communication as a state-of-the-art technology. What sets the RCS initiative apart from the herd of Internet services is that it is driven by global telecom 8 15 Making RCS Happen The Real Deal The key value proposition for consumers to have these services just there just work is that this set of services will then become a platform for innovative third-party applications. That is, a third-party application, game, TV program, CRM system, commercial website, etc., will be able to utilize these services trusting that they are just there, just work. This has endless potential for enriching our lives. The synergy between services such as chat, video streaming, file transfer and geo-location that “just work”, and vertical applications for mobile health, customer support, parental control, enterprise applications, etc., is limited only by the imagination. Such a realization requires a cross-platform, standardized set of base services, available out of the box, with a globally unified UX. No silo Internet service can offer this value.
  9. 9. The Challenge A Paradigm Shift Is Required The telecom industry refers to the existing IP communication service providers as Over the Top (OTT) services and some refer to the RCS services as tools to fight the OTTs. This paradigm implies that CSPs are the incumbents whose walled garden was recently broken into by niche service providers providing services over their head and cannibalizing their revenues. This is a flawed perception that ignores market dynamics. It may cause a misunderstanding of the marketing challenge of making RCS happen – and, as a result, contribute to the failure to do so. For more than a century, CSPs have been operating telephone networks connecting user phones to the CSPs’ walled garden. For TDM telephony services, these walls are still sealed. In the late 90s, a new parallel IP communication services market started to form, offering innovative communication services that did not exist in the CSPs sphere to date. Today, this market has established incumbents – strong, innovative giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. Due to the characteristics of IP communication services (see text box), users perceive a strong distinction between the CSP garden and the IP communication garden – and may even favor a specific CSP service (e.g. , SMS) for certain needs and a similar IP communication service (Facebook chat/Google Hangouts) for other needs. However, users don’t regard CSPs as providers of IP communication services. Hence, as far as IP communication goes, CSPs are the challengers and Internet players are the incumbents. With RCS, CSPs aspire to become the provider of choice for IP communications – a market they currently hold practically no share in. Understanding and accepting this new paradigm is crucial for crafting a winning strategy and effective tactics to make RCS happen. Key Differentiating Characteristics of IPBased Communication Services: Available in parallel on any IP-enabled device Enriched and evolving user experience True global communications irrespective of distance or geographic issues (long distance and roaming charges) Less reliable than telecom service, but more than good enough The Challenging Interim Phase in an EcosystemDependent Promise The promised value of having rich communication services that are just there, just work will be delivered only once the entire telecom ecosystem – vendors, CSPs, device manufacturers and subscribers – migrates to the new platform. In the interim phase, prior to having the ecosystem come to its RCS fruition, the promise will remain distant and the new RCS services will offer only limited value to users: limited reachability and downloadable clients with limited UX will make it hard for RCS services to gain traction. However, CSPs cannot afford to wait for ecosystem readiness. Making RCS Happen 51 9
  10. 10. A Growing Sense of Urgency The RCS initiative kicked off in 2007. At that point in time there was no (or practically no) Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, Google Play Store, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Viber, cloud services, etc. Looking back, it is hard to believe that all these services and brands, that today form the cornerstone of our digital life, are so new. But that’s the development pace of the IP communication market. Internet-based services proliferate, propagate and improve at an unbelievable speed. Had CSPs launched RCS services in 2008/9, the marketing challenge would have been significantly simpler. It is still possible to make RCS happen, but the IP communications development clock is ticking. The discrete communities formed by the different players are merging: Apple introduced system-wide integration with Facebook and Twitter in iOS and Mac OS, Microsoft is merging the Messenger community with the Skype community and making both of them native on the Windows Mobile 8 OS. Google is pushing WebRTC, an HTML 5 technology that aims to break down the walls between all of the silo services and enable rich communication directly between Internet browsers of any IP device. 10 15 Making RCS Happen The speed with which things change in this IP world places tremendous pressure on CSPs to enter the IP market or risk losing their dominance as communication service providers and be relegated to mere network operators. To maintain their incumbent service provider position, CSPs should strive to become the provider of choice for IP communications. The window of opportunity for CSPs to establish themselves as the ultimate providers of choice in the IP communication sphere is rapidly closing. The shortterm ramifications of not having the full RCS ecosystem in place to unleash the promise of just there, just works can be mitigated by a well thought out marketing plan and effective tactics that will ensure high adoption rates for the new services.
  11. 11. Suggested Tactics for Making RCS Happen Due to the network effect of communication services (the value of a service for a user depends on the size of the user base), the key milestone to making RCS happen is to reach a critical mass of users. According to the network effect theory, the critical mass point, where enough individuals are using a communication service in order to ensure self-sustained adoption, is estimated to be around 15%-20% of market share. By definition, this initial market share is of the Early Adopter user type. (See illustration below). popular services, the Early Majority can be correctly defined as smartphone users who understand the concept of downloading and using different applications on their smartphones. While they may not be the first to utilize new services, they would find value in utilizing traditional voice and messaging services on their tablet or PC, as well as utilizing them while roaming, knowing that they will be charged local rates. But first things first – the CSPs need to build a new, state-of-the-art IP communication platform. From Irrelevant Incumbent to Relevant Challenger The Diffusion of Innovation According to Rogers As such, CSPs need to focus their value proposition on the Early Adopters. Once they are on board, growth will be self-sustained. However, these types of users are already interconnected between themselves with various Internet-based IP communication services providing the same services as the “new” RCS services but with a much larger user base. How then can CSPs lure the Early Adopters to their new IP communication platform? To answer that, we need to search for key CSP assets that can be leveraged to enter this new market. The answer lies in the existing CSP services. By offering an IP version of the existing CSP services, CSPs provide relevant value not only to Early Adopters but also to the Early Majority. Since these services are not new and are in fact, existing, established and highly The cornerstone for the delivery of IP communication services is the IP service platform, whose role is to streamline service introduction and realize the unique service characteristics enabled in an IP platform (see Table 1). The RCS Framework specification (described in Highlights of RCS Specifications, page 7) describes the essential requirements of an IP communication services platform. However, the RCS specification does not address one key characteristic of IP – its inherent openness to the Internet. By enhancing the RCS platform with Open API and Internet Services Gateway, CSPs can augment the value for their customers through interaction with Internet services, integration with webpages through WebRTC and the introduction of high-value third-party applications that utilize the CSP communication services, thereby increasing the value offered by the new platform. CSPs need to step into the ring and become relevant challengers. Making RCS Happen 51 11
  12. 12. Address Your Subscribers – Not Theirs New RCS Services for a Well Developed User Base As mentioned above, the first services offered on the new platform should be the existing CSP services: voice, SMS, MMS and voicemail. These services are the key assets of the CSP as they are heavily used and are still generally attributed to CSPs. By offering these services on the new service platform, the CSP approaches its own customers – not the Internet players’ customers. Once the value for early adopters is maximized, CSPs can introduce new rich services. Early adopters are familiar with these types of services and utilize them highly. The goal should be to become the provider of choice for these rich services. The CSP can leverage its key assets by enabling interaction between all services – existing, new and Internet services. Early Adopters and the Early Majority will find value in the enriched user experience of using these popular services on their tablet, PC or TV, communicating globally without incurring long distance or roaming charges, and in the interaction of these services with Web services such as messaging interactively with Facebook, calling by clicking on a phone number on a webpage, etc. In fact, these services would be the only IP communication services on earth that have 100% reach for any layman user. By providing real value to the initial users, CSPs are more likely to build their critical mass of users faster. Segment and Conquer Another key reason for introducing the existing services first is to break the perceptual fences between IP communication services and traditional CSP services and, as such, to position the CSP not only as a relevant IP communication provider, but as an established one. 12 15 Making RCS Happen To realize the power of just there, just works IP communication services, CSPs should strive for quick utilization of RCS services by vertical applications that will provide high value for specific segments: enterprise applications, mobile health, parental control, education, etc. A popular TV show that utilized these services as input for voting, content creation, etc. would greatly assist in positioning these services as the de-facto IP communication services.
  13. 13. Erroneous Tactics Resulting from Non-Relevant Paradigm: RCS-e Five years after the publication of the first RCS specification and upon witnessing the fast propagation of OTT IP communication services, the big 5 European CSPs* decided to initiate RCS by launching RCS-e, a cut-down version of RCS aimed at simplifying the introduction of services and providing faster time-tomarket. RCS-e focuses on a set of new communication services: namely chat, file transfer and video share, and completely ignores existing CSP services. The first implementations of RCS-e were launched during the second half of 2012. The problem is that while the long-term promise of RCS is to be just there just works, the current implementation of RCS requires downloading a client, offering no competitive edge over existing OTT services, as it not only impairs the user experience but it also limits the service reachability. Let’s look at it from the perspective of an Early Adopter who is considering downloading and installing the RCS-e client on his mobile device. Given that he is already using the top OTT rich communication services, what new services are enabled by RCS-e? Will RCS-e improve the UX of the OTT services he is already using? Will it extend the reach of existing services? The answer is a resounding “no”. By overlooking the need to create a value proposition for Early Adopters to encourage service uptake, CSPs are unable to hit the critical mass point and the services are not taking off. Ignoring the existing services, the key asset of the CSPs, RCS-e has reinforced the perception that CSPs are the incumbents and Internet players are the challengers and as such, assumed that by offering services similar to OTT services, IP communication users will be inclined to use their services. * Orange™, Vodafone, Telefónica, Telecom Italia™ and Deutsche Telekom. Already using top OTT rich communication services, Early Adopters are not seeing the value in RCS-e Making RCS Happen 51 13
  14. 14. The Shift to IP Services and the Resulting Requirements of an IP Service Platform - Table 1 TDM-Era Network IP-Era Network Implication Resulting Requirements from a Modern Service Platform Connecting subscriber phones to the CSP network Interconnecting between IP-enabled devices (phones, computers, tablets, TVs), the CSP network and the Internet cloud Any service should be enabled on every connected device capable of terminating/initiating the service Multi-device service capability, including central network store For synchronization between all devices Requires a client and configuration of each UE device Mechanisms to enable out-of-thebox user experience and streamline service ignition Every IP service provider on the planet may offer services to the subscriber The platform should enable the CSP to tap the creativity of the WW community of developers (Open API), and leverage existing 3rd party services (Internet Services Gateway) Consists of many vendors’ proprietary technologies Implementation of services should adhere to standards whenever possible The platform should conform to the generally accepted standards in the industry i.e., RCS Circuit Switch based (high cost for capacity, zero flexibility in QoS) 14 Based solely on open standards, driven by global interops Packet Switch based (low costs per capacity, ultimate flexibility in QoS) All services planned for the long term should eventually be natively packet switched The platform should support a native IP version of existing services 15 Making RCS Happen
  15. 15. Comverse Digital and Value Added Services Become an integral part of subscribers’ digital lifestyle with Comverse Digital and Value-Added Services offering Safeguard profits from existing services Introduce new (RCS) communication services Turn social networks into an opportunity Evolving traditional services to IP to safeguard profits and build a critical mass of users for new IP services Comverse dVAS prevents the erosion of traditional voice and messaging communication services by enabling them on any Internet-connected device, with a rich user experience. Comverse dVAS interworks with existing legacy services to create IP communication services with 100% reach, using the subscriber’s existing phone number. This enables CSPs to rapidly build a critical mass of users for new IP-based offerings, an essential step towards evolving to the digital era. Moreover, by providing enhanced voice and messaging services over IP, Comverse dVAS empowers CSPs to become an integral part of subscriber digital lifestyles, positioning them as progressive digital service players. Delivering the promise of RCS to remain relevant as a communications service provider in the digital era in addition to visual voicemail connectivity, archiving and social network communications. Comverse RCS+ also enables the decommissioning of legacy delivery engines, by converging SMSC/MMSC/VMS functionalities. Comverse RCS+ services are supported on any Internet-connected device, across operating systems and networks. Harvesting social information to sharpen retail and marketing power Comverse Share™ works in concert with Comverse dVAS and RCS+ and provides insight into the digital lifestyle of subscribers. Comverse Share™ enables CSPs to cost-effectively utilize social networks and gain insight into the digital lifestyle of their subscribers from social networks, by leveraging their new IP presence on subscribers’ devices. Comverse Share™ provides access to communication services alongside self-service options, attracting heavy users of social networks while facilitating the adoption of new services such as RCS. This enables CSPs to increase retail and marketing power while effectively enhancing the overall customer experience. Providing the architecture essential for CSP success Comverse Digital and Value Added Services offering utilizes Comverse’s scalable, telco-grade ICS Foundation, which is designed for IMS environments and includes OAM&P tools, alongside centralized H-Base multi-content storage and WebRTC support through open API. The new offering fully complies with RCS/VoLTE specifications to deliver full network/device interoperability and enable multi-device services. Moreover, it can be fully virtualized and enabled as a service, facilitating increased agility and profitability. Comverse RCS+ enhances the communication service package by extending it with the full range of RCS 5.1 services (standalone messaging, one-to-one chat, group chat, file transfer, content sharing, social presence information, geolocation and IP voice and video calls), Making RCS Happen 51 15
  16. 16. Wrap Up In summary, the shift from TDM services to IP communication services is inevitable. However, to date, CSPs have practically no market share as providers of IP communication services. This market is dominated by Internet giants who provide free, innovative, global IP communication services. The RCS initiative defines the ultimate set of services CSPs should provide on their new IP network. However, due to the late entry into the IP communication services market, the key challenge of making RCS happen is a marketing challenge. CSPs should realize that in the IP communication market they are the challengers, while the Internet players are the incumbent service providers. To make their new IP communication services stand out, CSPs should leverage their traditional voice and messaging services. By introducing IP versions of these services, with a fallback to their TDM equivalent, CSPs can create a significant value proposition for initial users of the new platform and position themselves as established IP communication service providers. This would assist CSPs in gaining a strong initial user base for their new IP services platform, providing enough value from the new RCS services to make the continued adoption self-sustained – and in this way, making RCS happen. Comverse has created their Digital and Value Added Services offering based on the above strategy and accompanying tactics. This offering provides CSPs with the optimal tools to evolve their services to IP and become the provider of choice for next-generation IP communications. 16 15 Making RCS Happen