Festive time, SMS and WhatsApp, have replaced the time-honoured practice of calling people or visiting homes. Though traditional voice calls are still most prevalent, video calls are gaining popularity, and SMS is still more popular than instant messaging. What does SMS mean to us? How do we enhance SMS to be more captivating? Here comes Rich Communication Services (RCS), the newest enhancement to the one-way SMS.

What’s RCS?

RCS can be defined as a communication protocol between mobile-telephone carriers, and between the phone and the carrier. It is aimed at replacing SMS messages with a system that is richer and vibrant.

RCS is a GSM Association (GSMA) program and the standard for the next generation of text messaging. It was first initiated in 2007 and has since been detailed in the past decade.

RCS’ core features are standalone messaging, one-to-one chat, group chat, file share, file transfer, video and content sharing, doodles, stickers, audio messaging, multi-device, enriched calling, location share and live sketching among many others, including social presence information, IP voice call and IP video call, geo-location exchange, capability exchange based on presence or SIP options.

The additional capabilities are group chat store and forward, file transfer in group chat, file transfer store and forward, and best effort voice call, support for visual voicemail, chatbots, and SMS fall-back features.

Utilising this communication protocol between network operators, OEMs and messaging partners for A2P rich messaging, interactive communicating is the new future.

Google is working to take these features further, trying to get into its anvil live trip updates, boarding passes and even the ease of blocking your seat on the flight — all from within the messaging app. Soon, Android users will be able to pair their messages app to the web via a QR code, bringing the full chat experience from a computer.

RCS empowers brands to drive effective marketing campaigns that are easy to monitor and integrate — quick replies, suggestive clear menus, representation of brands and a plethora of images. It helps brands send interactive messages to its customers, like images, GIFs, videos, or allow customers to browse and buy products, even pay for them, without leaving messaging.

It is not an app, it is your mobile number. It has the power of an app, with the convenience of messaging. Retailers can demonstrate products, airlines can handle bookings, banks can process banking transactions, online portals can deliver offers, the possibilities are endless — all over simple messaging. It can also enable chatbot interactivity to enhance customer service and engagement.

Rich Communications are carrier- and handset-dependent for both the user and the receiver. Currently, it is available with 65 operators in 46 countries; GSMA forecasts additional launches by more than 40 new operators in 30 countries in the next year, resulting in RCS’ availability in five regions across the world.

RCS uses a data connection, not a cellular connection. Security concerns are being slowly taken care of and end-to-end encryption will be rectified. RCS is treated as a service of carriers and thus could be subject to possible surveillance.

Rich Communication is the future — for individuals and brand marketers.

The writer is MD & Group CEO, Route Mobile.