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Thursday, 22 February 2018 | MYT 6:00 AM

What does the future of messaging look like? SMS 2.0 could be closer than we think

You've just landed at your holiday destination, ping! It's an SMS from your hotel asking you if you'd like a pick up. You click Yes. Great, they say. And here is a coupon for 20% off of your first meal at the restaurant, please click ‘Add to Wallet'. A more interactive, versatile incarnation of SMS is on the horizon and will be a hot topic at the upcoming Mobile World Congress. 

SMS 2.0. What might it look like? In short, the idea is to offer the same popular features found on today's messaging apps, such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat etc, directly into our text messages. This means, even without an internet connection, users could do group chats, video calls, audio messaging and transfer files. 

It also means businesses could interact with customers to provide better service. Big names in the tech sector, including Google and Vodafone, are working to revolutionize how customers can communicate more dynamically with businesses, who would not need individual apps but could use centralized platforms, called RCS (Rich Communications Services) that would send information directly to our phones. 

And the organisers of the MWC in Barcelona (Feb 26- March 1), GSMA, believe that this year's edition "marks a turning point in the road to commercial reality" for the "transformative technology" of RCS. 

Some of the main players in this space have come up with their own brand names and are testing them in the market, such as Joyn and Vodafone's Message+. Those who use iOS will already be acquainted with a similar concept, which is iMessage. Google has Android Message, a rival for iMessage, designed to support RCS, as well as Jibe, a foundation RCS platform that offers the mobile community flexible tools to launch and manage RCS services so they too can provide consumers these advanced SMS advantages. 

But none of the current players in this field are very prominent at the moment, mainly because a lot of companies need to work together in order for RCS to function. That's where the GSMA comes in, representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide, bringing together 800 operators with over 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem. Everyone from handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies. 

 

At this year's MWC, GSMA will be hosting the RCS A2P (Application to Person) Future Messaging Lab, along with 3Cinteractive, for the 10th time. Speakers will be discussing the topic, while showcases are expected for Google's Jibe, Android Messaging and Vodafone's Message+. 

While the move to this new form of SMS is going slow, given all the moving parts, things might start to speed up now that there is something called the Universal Profile, described by GSMA as “...an industry-agreed common set of features and technical enablers that has been developed to simplify both product development and operator deployment of RCS delivering a richer, common messaging experience globally.” 

So far approximately 49 operators have already launched RCS, including KT and SK Telecom in South Korea and Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom in Europe, while many big name phone manufacturers are pledging support, such as Alcatel, Asus, HTC, LG, Lenovo, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and ZTE. — AFP Relaxnews