By Mae Kowalke
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, service providers (SPs) are staying one step ahead by finding new and innovative ways monetize their offerings. For providers who recognize and leverage it effectively, the emerging new social conversation experience arising from the pervasive adaption and use of social media is proving to be a valuable tool in this endeavor.
Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) has been busy developing solutions for fixed and mobile SPs to help them leverage the evolution of social media. On the mobility side, much of this development has been focused on two technical projects—Rich Communication Suite (RCS) and RCS-enhanced (RCS-e)—led by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA).
In a recent white paper, “Building a Social Conversation Experience with RCS and RCS-E,” Alcatel-Lucent researchers explain that RCS (developed in 2008) is intended to: “Leverage the global interoperability and ubiquity of existing voice services and Short Message Services (SMSs) and enrich them with Internet-type features more in line with user demand.”
As of early 2011, when the more compact iteration of the capability RCS-e was launched, the RCS Group had more than 100 members, including service providers, device manufacturers, and infrastructure and software vendors. Alcatel-Lucent is among them.
The RCS standard, as the white paper notes, has three key attributes:
- Social Presence – makes social interactions more frequent, easy and vivid
- Multi-device – defines mechanisms for aggregating presence information across multiple devices
- Service Capability – lets users easily discover which services they can use with their friends
Since it was first developed, trials of RCS services were conducted by many service providers, including two 2010 nationwide tests in Spain and France. ALU has been involved with all the trials gleaning valuable insights about the new social conversation and what tools will most effectively give providers a leg up when developing services users demand.
The researchers stated that, “Users have a strong interest in Instant Messaging capabilities, mainly because IM corresponds to service already offered to them through other means.” It is thus not surprising that they further found, “Accordingly, for them, integration with social networks is logical.”
Because RCS is technically complex, some providers in the development group created a simplified version: RCS-e.
“RCS-e aims to provide assured services by delivering a simplified extension to voice and text, enabling subscribers to send IMs, video chat, and image/video share and transfer/exchange files in real time,” ALU’s authors state.
RCS-e has three key attributes, using the power of RCS to offer streamlined improvements:
- Chat Services: If both parties in a chat session are online at the same time, the social conversation is treated as regular IM. If one of the people is not online, the service stores the message and sends it when the second person logs on.
- File Transfers: Defined either as standalone or as combined with voice or IM chat sessions.
- Video Streaming: Using the “see what I see” paradigm.
The goal of RCS-e is to increase subscriber adoption of SMS services, using enhanced service activation, user discovery, service capabilities, and delivery assurance.
“With such assured services, there is no need to suspend one service or to bring up a new client and reestablish communications,” the authors say. In fact, the white paper concludes that, “This strategy attempts to replicate the success of SMS with a rich set of new services by providing the same mobile ubiquity and service assurance as SMS.”
The rapid global user adoption of IM, chat and texting of all sorts including he extraordinary ascension of Twitter has proven there is an insatiable demand for non-voice communications. In fact, it is a demand that is constantly seeking new conversation experiences that enrich social interaction. The good news, as ALU and those working on the development and rollout of RCS and RCS-e have discovered, is that improving the social conversation through these tools is a desirable means for SPs to not only captivate customers but also to monetize/profit from what can be a central role in evolving social media ecosystems.