U.S. carriers finally agree on who will build the country's RCS network

RCS messaging on Android
RCS messaging on Android (Image credit: Nick Sutrich\Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Synchronoss Technologies and WIT Software have been chosen as the companies to build the network and app for U.S.-based RCS messaging.
  • These companies currently run Japan's RCS network and will be using that expertise to built the U.S.'s RCS infrastructure.
  • The Android app is slated to debut sometime in 2020, with iOS RCS messaging happening sometime later.

You may have RCS messaging on your phone already, thanks to the efforts of Google and a nifty hidden setting, but U.S. carriers want to be the ones to run the RCS show, instead. That was made clear when Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all announced a joint venture called CCMI, or the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative.

Today's announcement comes from the CCMI itself, via FierceWireless, pronouncing that Synchronoss Technologies and WIT Software will be the ones to build out the standard for all four major carriers (or maybe three by the time they finish the deal). Synchronoss and WIT were chosen specifically because they've already done this before and have a successful network running across Japan's mobile carriers using RCS. In fact, this network was rolled out early in 2018 and can be used for everything from messaging to money transfers and even global currency conversion.

RCS messaging

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

RCS is a powerful messaging standard that's about more than just sending text messages to friends and family; that's why RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. Now that companies have been awarded a contract for getting RCS rolled out to all four major networks, the real work can begin. In short, Synchronoss Technologies and WIT Software will be building the network of servers for RCS, as well as the new messaging app that will be required to be used on all phones in order to take advantage of this new messaging network.

You won't have to do much reading into the statements of industry veterans to understand why Google has not been allowed into this new initiative and why this has been such a big ordeal: the carriers aren't making money off messaging the way they used to and need a new source of revenue that will benefit everyone's bottom line. Carriers want to play a "much different role in consumer's lives," and while surface-level language makes this appear innocuous, some people disagree.

What's particularly interesting about this announcement is the inclusion of Apple iOS devices in the development phase. Whether or not this means a separate app from iMessage is not clear, but plans are for a specific app to be developed for Android, with plans to roll it out sometime in 2020. We certainly won't see the return of messaging plans that charge per message as carriers have done in the past, but it's clear that carriers want to make more money off of you and this is the next big way they're going to do that.

The CCMI could be the RCS solution that works because carriers can profit from it

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu
  • Geez...no one is gonna pay the carriers for this nor will the carriers ever agree on a common standard to build this network. Time for the carriers to fess up that they are nothing more than a pipeline/electrical grid.
  • Pretty sure it means this will let them collect and sell the data.
  • No one expects end users to pay for RCS. The carriers expect to monitize RCS by selling services to companies to integrate through RCS. They can only do that by controlling the RCS platform. They don't actually need control over the RCS client and *could* allow any client that is compatible with RCS UP to connect without losing control of the backend platform.
  • If they are building a specific app for RCS, does that mean if I don't install that app, I can't use the services?
  • That's exactly what that means unless someone makes an app that has the same protocols built in
  • Maybe another company will be able to use them, for a fee, and we'll see a flood of other, better, apps like we see with other services.
  • This is from the carriers.... it will be force installed and lock in place like other apps, come now. Only way around it will be rooting and jailbreaking
  • You should be able to use these services with any app that supports RCS Universal Profile. So say you have Google Fi and you're using Google's Messages app, and I have T-Mobile and I'm using their stock messaging app (once the CCMI RCS rollout is complete, that is). We would be able to use all the RCS features communicate with each other, some both of our carriers and messaging apps support the RCS UP. The question is whether or not the carriers will allow messaging apps other than their default ones to access RCS UP. Once the rollout is complete, will I - a T-Mobile user - be able to use RCS cos the Google Messages app instead of whatever inevitably ****** app they release themselves? That remains to be seen.
  • I seriously doubt they would let other messaging apps access the service. At least not until it flops...Isis. They want TOTAL control. But the scenario you describe would be ideal. For the consumer. Hence the issue. ;)
  • I don't think so, because I thought they said in a previous article that it would be built on the same platform as Google's RCS and would work together.
  • No way I'll pay a cent more for RCS from a carrier. Too many other options.
  • The idea that people will pay for this shows how tone deaf the greedy execs are. The only other option would be ad supported, which would also be DOA. Smdh
  • I'm fine with SMS. I am not going to be using a carrier provided messaging app, LOL. They can go F themselves.
  • ^what they said
  • When AC writers talk about RCS they always say that txting is bare bones and lacks features that are so great. Then when they list the benefits of the new system it turns out not to be anything I consider important or even desirable. It's little different than fb messenger. I definitely prefer txting over that. It's also said that txting is expensive to maintain but the carriers haven't shown much interest in adopting RCS till Google forced their hand. C'est la vie. But I'm happy with texting as is.
  • Carburation worked fine so why move to fuel injection?
  • You don't get the point of RCS. It's more global then individual. When you send 30nseconds clip through FB messenger to a person that also is using FB messenger they get that video in 720p and when send it to somebody who uses sms they get 140p unusable video. Especially with iPhone users. If they could get something that is supported for both platforms and not just have a app but whatever is the default app on your phone would have RCS that is what we need. It will not cost extra. It's just updating technology as SMS are old just like Aux on phones. People hate change!
  • You had a point until you drug in aux of all things.... there's a differnce between progress for the sake of it and actually making something better, and in the case of the headphone jack that is blatantly just a botched attempt for the race to the thinnest as opposed to making anything better....
  • Although I prefer native SMS apps, Google Voice is the same phone to phone. Haven't needed an OEM or carrier alternative for years......it just works. Besides, PayPal and similar services already allow us to do everything that RCS is promising. Good luck carriers!
  • Will RCS work on tablets?
  • The Google attorneys will sue.
  • So I assume that this means that greedy US Carriers will have their own, totally incompatible, charged through the nose version of RCS then!!?!
  • Well this is going to suck when it rolls out, we all know they are going to find any reason they can to make this invasive and unnecessarily expensive for consumers.
  • Why pay for another app when WhatsApp is free and so is fb messenger. Why not the carriers just charge Google a small percentage a year and allow Google messenger to work. I'm not paying extra for this on top of cell bill. Sprint (soon to be ) TMobile has rcs through Google I don't see the complications
  • I mean, that joint venture to take down wallet/pay worked out so well for them. They don't want Google holding the RCS cards but are perfectly fine with Crapple having complete control of iMessage?
  • And make that mistake again!?!? They're greedy. Not stupid. ;)
  • I remember being excited about RCS in 2014. Now it's just a joke...
  • If they are gonna force to install a s*** app on phones to use RCS it's gonna fail. All the carries should just adopt RCS UP that is cross-platform compatible with any messaging app whether it is Google Messages, Samsung Messages or carrier preinstalled messaging apps.