The Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) was launched in the USA in 2019, a joint effort by the big three US mobile network operators (spearheaded by Sprint) to promote Rich Communication Services (RCS), the alleged next-generation messaging standard designed to replace SMS. Something also known as ‘SMS 2.0’. Now the keyword here is ‘alleged’ quite simply because Google was never a member of the CCMI, something we find beyond strange. After all, Google at that time was by far the biggest superfan of the standard. “So what’s the backstory Ehsan?” we hear you ask…
Facebook bought the messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, a figure all thought was stunning for a company that was just five years old at the time. Buying WhatsApp bolstered Facebook’s already strong position in the crowded messaging world. Microsoft had picked up Skype for $8.5 billion back in 2011. But what about Google? Google has had so many attempts the past 16 years at making a messaging solution truly stick and become successful it makes my head spin thinking of them all.
Starting back in 2005 with Google Talk (often known colloquially as Gchat) they moved through, Google Hangouts, Google Voice, Google Allo (more like ‘goodbye’ given how short-lived a messaging product it was) and when that failed spectacularly, went all in with RCS. RCS wasn’t something new. People had talked about it for years but had made precious little progress. And Google’s intention was to pick it up, polish it and make it a real success.
The Rich Communications Suite (since rebranded to ‘Services’) initiative began in 2010 and to really push things forward, Google acquired technology company Jibe in September 2015. Their intention was to take Jibe’s solution, create a uniform standard for RCS (universal profile) and push its adoption with mobile operators around the world. So a messaging solution operator could make some real money off, particularly when it came to business messaging. But things did not exactly go to plan. Again.
If Google had done their homework a bit better and earlier, they would have soon learnt that mobile operators were not helping themselves. Some big operators liked the idea of RCS but did not listen to the experts and thought they knew better. A lot better.
If I go to an enterprise to talk about business messaging and mention SMS, Voice, WhatsApp Business, Viber and some other channels, when it comes to discussing the commercial side of things, it’s generally quite easy. You talk about the price per delivered message or per voice minute. But if I were to present RCS to enterprises and they asked me how much it was, I’d have to say “It depends”. Really. Not a great start and no wonder it hasn’t got traction.
When mobile operators started to get their teeth into RCS they overcomplicated it, talking about so many different charging models and not agreeing on any to present clearly to enterprises. ‘Confusion’ does not describe it…
This situation had gone on for Google for over five years when they finally had enough and on November 19th 2020 announced a move to really push their Google Messages on their own. Yes, it’s RCS but not like you know it.
Mobile operators really not agreeing how to proceed led to the collapse of the CCMI initiative back in April. T-Mobile USA have aligned with Google and looking further afield, the likes of Orange seem to be doing so too. But so many mobile operators (particularly the smaller independents) have really been left with precious little showing for their big investments. They spent millions on platforms and resources over a number of years only to see all this come to nothing and now, to a large degree, go totally to waste.
The GSMA had been a massive champion of RCS for years but even their influential might and the weight of Google supporting everything on their shoulders has not been enough. So there we have it. Mobile operators doing a AAA job of hunting a brand new, shiny solution to make them millions yet failing spectacularly. And yet, all the while, ignoring the obvious staring them right in the face. SMS, or more accurately business SMS.
SMS. SMS text messaging has never been accused of being sexy. No real colour, no true rich messaging capabilities. But it’s like a football team, one that may not play with the flowing elegance of a Serie A team from Italy, but one which although playing scrappily, always gets the right result. A proven winner.
98% of SMS are read, the majority within five minutes of receiving them. The global B2C/B2B (A2P) market is worth well north of $20 billion and growing fast. 80% of businesses around the world do not use it at all today and there is vast scope for growth. Companies spend $1 trillion a year on customer support and there is plenty of room for A2P SMS to occupy a nice new chunk of this market too. SMS is two-way today and perfect for driving unobtrusive conversations with consumers to manage support issues they might have. Much cheaper than a traditional contact centre handling everything with voice. Sessions can cost mere pennies instead of dollars using SMS. You get the idea. It has a LOT going for it!
So what are MNOs doing today to step up right now to take a big chunk of this A2P SMS market? Far too little I can tell you. Why every operator does not already have an SMS firewall and great managed service solution to view, control and monetize A2P SMS effectively constantly puzzles me.
Myself and the Vox team spend a lot of time educating operators and the market about the amazing opportunities A2P SMS provides. Sure, A2P SMS might only be a couple of per cent of an MNO’s entire revenue if done right but guess what, it is almost pure margin. If you are an MNO, you already have much of the equipment and resource required to manage A2P SMS as you need everything in place to support Person-to-Person (P2P) SMS communications for your subscribers. But A2P is a totally different ball game to P2P and a different market. You need the know-how and a technical solution that can effectively protect both your Voice and SMS channels all-in-one we have does not do any harm either.
With A2P SMS volumes so visibly on the up, right now is the time for every mobile operator to monetize all their inbound A2P transactions and as well as coming up with a great proposition to help their own enterprise clients better engage with customers. A2P is a different beast from the P2P world and the fastest time to market for operators is by partnering with a company that understands A2P totally and can provide a strong stream of revenue from Day 1. And Vox is that company.
MNOs, stand up for what is rightfully yours, stop procrastinating and just get that piece of the growing A2P SMS pie secured right now. You have no excuses. Ignore this golden opportunity at your peril and don’t let it go to waste. The cash cow is right there waiting for you.
The Global Carrier Awards are the most prestigious awards programme in wholesale telecoms. This year, the awards ceremony […]