What is RCS Messaging - Definition and How It Works

RCS or rich communication service messaging is a new communication protocol between mobile carriers and between phones and carriers. It is also marketed as advanced messaging, chat, and SMS+.

RCS is said to replace SMS in the future. RCS is expected to bring in features such as group messaging and multimedia capabilities. Likewise, mobile phone users can soon enjoy everyday messaging with these cool features.

Even though mobile phones have evolved dramatically since the early 2000s, the messaging protocols individuals interact with haven’t. Since its creation, SMS has been the preferred method of sending and receiving messages for most phones, although it is far past due for an update.

However, what do these changes entail for businesses using SMS marketing? Here’s a little more information on RCS messaging and how it will affect your marketing plan.

What is RCS Messaging?

Firstly, RCS messaging is a communication protocol soon implemented on mobile phones. There are three primary communication protocols throughout the world: SMS, MMS, and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS).

Additionally, the first two protocols function by conveying information through text. Likewise, RCS allows for richer content such as images, voice, videos, and even location information. It is expected to change the way people communicate on their mobile devices.

Group chats, image, and video sharing read receipts, and end-to-end encryption is just a few of the features available in RCS. There’s also no maximum length limit with RCS as with SMS.

The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) incorporated precise communication services in 2008. It is accessible to users of Google Android, and several US carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, have committed to utilizing the protocol in December 2019.

Lastly, RCS messaging can be sent via cellular data or Wi-Fi, so if the recipient doesn’t have cell service but is connected to a wireless network, you may still send them messages.

How Does RCS Messaging Work?

How Does RCS Messaging Work_

Like SMS messaging, RCS works by sending text messages between two individuals. The difference is that users can now send richer media through these messages. An advantage of this is that it can reduce the number of texts sent.

In the case of group messaging, items such as location information can be shared among a group of friends, therefore, they know where everyone is. Another example would be sharing business card contact information through an RCS message.

The first step to using RCS is enabling it on your phone. Most carriers will provide the default setting to turn it on. Next, you’ll need to make sure your phone is updated.

Moreover, RCS requires that both users’ phones are compatible with RCS messaging.

What are the Specifications of RCS?

The file formats used by Rich Communications Services (RCS) are distinct from those used by SMS and MMS. The features of RCS that make them unique from other apps are:

  • Enhanced messaging –  The same features that are offered with SMS text messaging will be included in RCS.
  • Group chat – Users can communicate with more than one person at a time, as opposed to individual texts. This is similar to the Facebook Messenger app and WhatsApp.
  • Video conferencing – Users can conduct video conferencing through their devices instead of making separate phone calls or scheduling meetings.
  • Location sharing – Users can share their location with others on a map, rather than just the address of where they are located.
  • Media sharing – Images, video, and audio can be shared between users.
  • IP Voice Calls –  Users can make IP audio calls through their devices.

While these features may be advantageous for businesses using SMS marketing strategies, some limitations do exist.

Which Devices Can Use RCS Messaging?

RCS is available on quite a few devices already. It works with most Android devices, which will support RCS messaging by default.

Apple’s iOS 11 update also included support for this service, so iPhones have access to it as well. The only drawback is that iMessage does not recognize or support RCS messages. Apple may introduce a new protocol in the future if they determine a need for one.

Although many devices can now use RCS messaging, it is not yet as widespread as SMS. Several carriers have already begun to roll out this update to users’ phones.

Among those who have implemented or invested in RCS messaging include the following devices:

  • Google Android handsets (Nexus and Pixel)
  • Sony Xperia devices
  • Huawei Honor devices
  • HTC U11 and U12+
  • LG V30 and G6 models
  • Motorola models such as the Moto X4, E5 series, and Z2 series.
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8 devices
  • LG V30, Q6 and X Power 2 smartphones
  • BlackBerry Key2 and Motion smartphones
  • HTC U12 +
  • Lenovo Z5

Which Operators Can Use RCS Messaging?

Which Operators Can Use RCS Messaging

A mobile network operator is a telecommunications provider who provides services for mobile phone users. Mobile Network Operators can add RCS messaging capabilities to their service plans, which will allow their customers to use this app.

Several mobile network operators have already begun using RCS, including Sprint and Vodafone in Europe.

On October 24th, 2019, the major four carriers issued a news release announcing their intention to provide wide-scale RCS deployment on all Android devices by 2020.

Its organizers dub this collaboration the “Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI).”

However, the press release gives no specific timeline for full RCS support.

  • Sprint – RCS messaging is available on Sprint Android devices and can be viewed on any device. RCS is already widely supported by US mobile carriers. In June 2019, Sprint became the first primary carrier in the United States to use RCS. All Sprint Android-based phones may use RCS messaging to communicate with Sprint consumers and non-Sprint carriers worldwide, as their network is up to date with the most recent Universal Profile. Android Messages has been preinstalled on all new Android devices from Sprint since January 2017.
  • T-Mobile – T-Mobile is also launching Universal Profile 1.0, which will enable RCS messaging across the T-Mobile network and other carriers in the US. T-Mobile has an RCS solution it calls Advanced Messaging. Some T-Mobile RCS-capable phones are Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S7 Metro-variance, S8, S8+, and Note Series.
  • AT&T – AT&T was the first major carrier to roll out a native RCS Android messaging experience called Enhanced Messaging. It has partnered with Google to enable RCS Universal Profile on more devices and is working with manufacturers, including Huawei and Sony Mobile, who have committed to supporting it.
  • Verizon Wireless – Like other major carriers in the US, this carrier is committed to bringing RCS messaging to its customers worldwide. Verizon Wireless has strongly supported Google’s Android Messages and agreed to support the Universal Profile standards that Google developed for RCS messaging.

Which OES Providers Can Use RCS Messaging?

An OES provider is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) who uses the Operators network for their service.

MVNOs are smaller carriers that use existing Operators’ networks to provide cellular phone service to customers at a discounted price. Most offer phones at reduced prices, but without a contract or other agreement between the carrier and customer.

Since November 2012, Google has worked with manufacturers to integrate RCS into phones. Since then, Google has made more than 50 phone models compatible with the service, including HTC, Huawei, LG, and Motorola Mobility.

The initial launch of RCS on these devices will be limited in terms of features and functionality, but it sets a solid foundation for the full development in the future.

What are the Usage Purposes of RCS Messaging?

RCS is created to make messaging better. It is intended to make texting more functional, engaging, and richer with features like group chats, high-resolution photo sharing, reading receipts, and syncing across devices.

You may send and receive much larger items (up to 105MB), so photos and movies will arrive in considerably higher resolution than MMS. Secondly, you can react to a received message similar to how it goes on social media.

RCS is a new messaging system that uses broadcast technology. It sends text and multimedia messages over your phone’s mobile network or Wi-Fi, as long as the person you’re communicating with also has RCS. It works in contrast to SMS, which transmits over your mobile carrier’s network.

Can RCS Be Used for Marketing?

Businesses have seen that engaging with customers in more meaningful ways through chat and messaging is one of the keys to increasing revenue and repeat purchases. Additionally, RCS is an excellent method of interacting with customers because it is convenient and streamlined. Here are some of the ways rich communication services are used for SMS marketing:

  • Provides Real-Time Insights – Delivering messages on a chat platform provides faster responses so customers can receive answers quickly without contacting customer service. It allows businesses to gather consumer feedback and use that information to improve their product or service, driving up sales and revenue.
  • Enable In-App Messaging – Mobile apps are a fast-growing industry because of mobile devices’ convenience and accessibility. You can use RCS with an in-app messaging feature to increase engagement and encourage repeat purchases.
  • Increased Engagement – With over 90% of consumers using their phones to access the internet, RCS is an excellent way for businesses to engage with customers. Customers can respond to messages quickly and easily with no time wasted.
  • Streamlined Scheduling, Shopping, and Paying – RCS is an excellent way for businesses to streamline the buying process with messages. Customers can schedule appointments, pay bills, and shop without leaving the app.
  • Secured – Rich messaging is a reliable approach to communicate. Rich communication allows for successful interactions in a secure, safe setting.

How to Enable and Use RCS Messaging

RCS is yet not universally supported. And it may not be available on some mobile phone models. And there’s not much you can do to enable RCS if it’s not available on your specific device or carrier.

Check the following before turning on RCS:

  • Make sure your phone is linked to the internet.
  • Install the latest version of Google’s Messages app or your preferred SMS software supporting RCS.
  • If you have several SIM cards in your phone, make sure the same card is the default for both data and calls.
  • If you’re using a smartphone, make sure it’s Android 5 or later. Chat works on Android 5 and higher.
  • Choose your preferred messaging program by editing your phone’s default settings.
  • If you use Google Fi, go to Hangouts and select Settings from the menu. Turn off Google Fi calls and SMS after that.
  • You’ll also need to switch off Messages’ message sync in the Settings menu. To accomplish this, open the Messages app, tap the three-dotted menu at the top right, choose Settings, then Advanced > Google Fi Settings to discover it.

After checking these out, you need to activate RCS messaging. Here is a step-by-step guide.

  1. Download the Google Messages app if you don’t already have it.
  2. Open the Messages app on your phone.
  3. Tap the three-dotted menu in the top-right corner.
  4. From the drop-down menu, choose Settings.
  5. Tap the Chat features option under General, then choose it.
  6. If Chat is accessible on your device and location, you’ll see a switch to enable it.
  7. Tap the slider and choose Yes, I’m In from the menu that appears.
  8. Tap Verify now to complete the verification process.
  9. After successfully validating your phone number, give the software a few seconds to verify it. If it doesn’t verify after a few minutes, choose Retry next to Status.
  10. After verification, the status will change to “Connected” if RCS installation is correct. It indicates that RCS is operational.

Lastly, after completing the preceding steps, you can start using RCS to send and receive texts and files. Conversations will occur over the RCS protocol if everyone has it enabled on their phone.

However, there is one last restriction. If you send a message to a number that doesn’t have RCS enabled or lacks the feature entirely, Messages will revert to SMS.

What is the Difference Between RCS and SMS?

The newest text messaging system, RCS (Rich Communication Services ), is like a better, more evolved SMS. Tech companies like Google are investing heavily in RCS messaging. Moreover, there are two significant changes to consider when comparing RCS to SMS.

First, RCS eliminates the need to switch between apps. With SMS, you can’t send or receive texts without opening your text messaging app. The native messaging service handles texting (and file sharing) for you with RCS.

The second distinction is that RCS supports read receipts and typing indicators, which are not available in SMS.

Users can see incoming messages from businesses, friends, and family within the native app on your phone. It means you don’t have to switch between apps to view a message.

Many of the elements that smartphone users are familiar with in their messaging apps are present. More importantly, RCS will allow you to have this user experience when communicating with anyone, regardless of the phone’s operating system.

This table further shows the differences between RCS and What is SMS.

Uses a data connectionYesYes
Send read receipts or see what friends are typingYesNo
Send filesYes, up to 100MBNo
Character limitNoYes, 160 characters
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