Cellcos remain skeptical about Joyn: report

16 Aug 2013

ITEM: Cellcos are increasingly unconvinced that Joyn – the branded RCS offering backed by the GSM Association – is the ticket to compete with OTT messaging, according to a vendor survey.

The survey – conducted by mobilesquared and commissioned by tyntec – quizzed over 40 cellcos and MVNOs, and yielded the following results:

  • 7% believe Joyn is the solution to combat OTT voice and messaging services like Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp.
  • 29% believe that Joyn had the potential to be the solution, but it has taken too long to launch — “seven years from concept to commercial launch compared to six months for WhatsApp”.
  • Another 29% believe Joyn can’t beat OTT apps.
  • 36% still aren’t sure one way or the other.

I don't know if any of the operators participating in the survey are among the handful of operators that have commercially launched Joyn in South Korea, the US and a handful of European markets. If so, presumably they would be in that 7% figure, as every operator I’ve talked to who has launched Joyn tends to be pretty upbeat about it as a service and/or a revenue generator.

The most interesting number there is the nearly 30% of operators who say Joyn has taken too long to develop. That’s been a common criticism of RCS and a worry for cellcos whose main challenge in competing with OTT services is the sheer speed at which OTT players can roll out services. And even if that’s less of an issue now that RCS is actually rolling out, Joyn is still up against services that are both familiar to users and (crucially) free of charge.

Which is why another interesting finding from the survey is that 36% of cellcos are partnering with OTT providers – and that’s up from 32% in 2012. That telling, not least because RCS was conceived back when cellcos were more in the mood to block OTT players from their networks.

Clearly attitudes have changed since then. In Asia, we’ve been seeing some innovative partnerships between cellcos and OTT services, motivated by the understanding that even if cellcos launch Joyn, many users will still prefer to use OTT brands anyway – so why not join forces and deliver a superior (and stickier) experience?

I don't think the survey signals the death knell for RCS/Joyn. Not yet. Rollouts are still planned in Europe later this year (albeit mainly by operators that have already launched Joyn in select markets). And some operators are considering both Joyn and OTT partnerships. But Joyn still has a way to go before it achieves critical mass, and even if it does, OTT services will never go away.

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