Outlook 2014: make-or-break for RCS

John C. Tanner
19 Dec 2013

Undoubtedly you'll be hearing a lot about OTT services in 2014, and with good reason.

Apart from the ongoing efforts of old hands like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber et al, we'll be seeing more and more new OTT services popping up in the next 12 months. We'll also start to see new innovations in OTT as HTML5 and WebRTC start ramping up. (And incidentally, those could potentially be as disruptive to existing OTT players as they will be for cellcos.)

You'll also be hearing a lot about what cellcos should do about this - which also means you'll be hearing a lot about Rich Communications Suite (RCS), the initiative from the GSM Association to help cellcos compete with the OTT threat. But while there will be much talk about RCS in 2014, it's not necessarily going to be flattering.

Certainly RCS/joyn hasn't really won over very many operators, although the operators that have adopted it to date are heavy hitters like Telefonica, Orange, SK Telecom, and most recently, Sprint in the US, among others.

However, most operators remain unconvinced that RCS will do them much good. An August 2013 survey from mobilesquared found only 7% of cellcos see RCS as a good tool for competing against OTT services. The rest are at best uncertain.

There's enough interest to trial it, of course, but not much faith that it will earn them much money, or keep users away from popular OTT apps. More and more cellcos are admitting the futility of fighting OTT and instead looking for partnership opportunities. And there will be plenty of those in 2014 - OTT players are generally keen, and cellcos now have a reasonably good idea of where their strengths lie in a partnership scenario.

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