Saturday, October 04, 2008

Mobile - Rich Communication Suite Initiative

GSM group to push new mobile services

Proponents of the mobile services portion of the Rich Communication Suite Initiative hope it will get a boost as the GSM Association takes charge of the development.

The Rich Communication Suite Initiative was announced in February. Its goal is to turn the architectural framework IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) into standardized services offered by mobile operators. First-phase services include enhanced phone book, enhanced messaging and enriched calling. The GSMA is a trade group that has more than 750 GSM mobile phone operators worldwide as members.

Enhanced phone book includes contact information with presence support, which means that users will be able to see who is available and how each person prefers to communicate in the phone book. Those contacted will have to give their permission for it to work. Enriched calling will, for example, make content sharing during a voice call a possibility, and enhanced messaging includes chat.

"These are services that in many cases are already available on the Internet, and when we talk to users it's something they want on the mobile phone as well," said Jörgen Lantto, vice president of portfolio management and technology and business unit multimedia at LM Ericsson Telephone Co.'s mobile platforms unit.

About 30 operators and vendors support the initiative, including all of the major mobile phone vendors. Having Nokia Corp. and the rest on board is a must, according to Lantto. Operators who are members include AT&T Inc., France Telecom/Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and NTT DoCoMo.

When the initiative was launched, the first services where meant to be introduced before the end of the year, but now the first interoperable RCS services are set to be launched in mid 2009.

"The plan was always to make RCS a part of an existing standards organization, and now everyone agrees that the GSM Association is the right one, but it has taken some time to get it all in place," Lantto said.

On the other hand, the delay has meant that the initiative has gotten wider support from vendors and operators, which in the end will benefit the rollout, Lantto said.

So why should consumers care about RCS services, when they can already use existing Internet-based ones? Standardization is key, according to Lantto. Most Internet services are proprietary and closed off in separate islands. Using standards will make life easier for users. "Just like SMS, you won't have to think about which service your friends are using," he said.

What the industry has learned from past failures, including push-to-talk, is that it's difficult to get something like this off the ground if it's supported by just one operator in one country, Lantto said.

The next step toward launching the services is testing, which is planned to take place in Helsinki at the end of September, hosted by TeliaSonera.

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