MetroPCS launches RCS for voice, video and text over its LTE network

The standardized Rich Communications Suite will be available on 10 handsets by mid-November, MetroPCS said

RCS, a standard for combining voice calls with video and text chatting on smartphones, notched a win on Wednesday with U.S. carrier MetroPCS but faces an uncertain future.

MetroPCS announced that RCS (Rich Communications Suite) is available immediately over its LTE network for one handset, the Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G. Subscribers with that phone can download the app for RCS, called joyn, from the carrier's @metro App Store or the Google Play store. The app is free and use is covered under the carrier's existing plans. MetroPCS said it was the world's first carrier in the world to offer RCS over LTE.

MetroPCS plans to offer joyn on 10 handsets by mid-November. Joyn will only run on the carrier's LTE network, which is available in 14 cities, said Solyman Ashrafi, vice president of product marketing. RCS isn't available in the Las Vegas area yet, but will be by the end of this year, he said. Video chat with joyn currently works only over Wi-Fi but soon will run on LTE, he said. MetroPCS adopted the joyn brand from GSMA, the international body that established the RCS standard.

RCS brings voice, video and text messaging under one umbrella, with presence technology to show whether contacts are available. It lets users share videos, images and files, as well as their locations, while talking on the phone. Wi-Fi voice and video calling is also included. A key advantage of the suite is that it lets subscribers shift among several different communication modes without having to start a new app or log into anything. All types of sessions can be launched from the phone's contact list. Eventually, joyn will be built into smartphones when subscribers buy them from MetroPCS.

The technology could help mobile operators offer services to compete against over-the-top applications such as WhatsApp and Sidecar. However, the success of RCS could be stunted by the popularity of those existing third-party services and similar communications suites that carriers are launching on their own, according to analyst Chetan Sharma, who runs Chetan Sharma Consulting.

The success of RCS will depend on how many carriers and how many devices offer it, a factor that's hard to predict, Sharma said. For its success, a majority of operators will have to offer RCS on a majority of handsets, at a price that consumers want to pay, he said. "Until you have that, it's noise, to some extent," he said. MetroPCS is the nation's fifth-largest carrier by subscribers, with 8.9 million customers at the end of its most recent quarter.

For example, Spain-based international mobile operator Telefonica recently introduced its own IP messaging service that does much the same things as RCS, Sharma said. Telefonica also offers RCS. Many of the world's major carriers have endorsed RCS, but it's not clear yet how much or how quickly they will truly embrace the technology, he said.

"How fast RCS can actually gain subscriber base, and whether it can effectively compete from a pure market reach perspective, I think remains to be seen," Sharma said. It won't happen in the next year or two, he said. For now, "there's just no competition with the existing IP messaging guys." New features and intelligent pricing could help RCS to gain more ground, Sharma said.

Though carriers can offer both RCS and their own IP messaging services, a key success factor will be how many other people a subscriber can reach with a given software suite. For example, Apple's Facetime video calling system may be popular among iPhone and iPad users, but its success has a limit as long as it's not available on other vendors' devices. The same effect could hamper RCS if it's not used or offered widely enough, he said.

The iPhone may represent one of the major stumbling blocks for RCS, said Peter Jarich, an analyst at Current Analysis. Apple hasn't embraced RCS, and there are many third-party apps offering similar capabilities for its wildly popular phones. Without Apple, "you've just lost a huge chunk of the market," Jarich said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicestelecommunicationCarriersMetroPCS Wirelessmobileinternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?