RCS messages: what they are

Based on materials from theverge.com

RCS messages: what they are

More and more mobile users are moving away from SMS, and this trend cannot but cause concern in the technology industry. Popular services like iMessage from Apple, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are great because they allow us to add photos, 'gifs' and videos to messages, but there is still no universal solution. exists. For example, if you are using WhatsApp, you cannot send messages to someone using Facebook Messenger. We have to look for compromises and install 'extra' messengers. However, companies like Google and others seem to already have a universal answer, well, or at least hope to make one. And it is called Rich Communications Services, or RCS.

What is RCS?

RCS is a new online protocol that was selected and adopted by the GSM Association in 2008 to replace the current SMS (Short Message Service) text messaging standard that has been in use since the 1990s. The Association includes a wide range of organizations in the mobile industry, including device and software manufacturers, Internet companies, etc. Obviously, with so many market players it took time to come to an agreement, so only by 2016 the GSM Association was able to work out something similar to the standard. It was called the Universal Profile, and it is, according to the definition of the Association, a 'single, industry-agreed set of features and technical enablers'.

What is the advantage of RCS over SMS?

RCS will provide more multimedia messaging capabilities. In addition to regular text messages, it will become easier to send GIFs, high-definition photos and videos. You will be able to find out if the person you are writing to is available, they will be able to send you a report that the message was delivered. You will be able to send longer messages and attach heavier files. It also supports group messaging much better than SMS. In other words, standard text messaging can look and work much like iMessage through innovation.

It will also make it easier for companies to interact with their customers. For example, RCS will allow you to quickly find out the status of an order or provide companies with the opportunity to receive customer comments on their sites in this way (although this does not rank as the best and most important function on the list).

В настоящий момент поддержку RCS обещали добавить 55 операторов, включая AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, и множество компаний, в том числе 11 производителей техники, таких как Samsung, Lenovo и LG (Apple not listed), as well as Microsoft and Google.

Anyone already using RCS?

Google is the main driving force behind RCS and even offers backend services to carriers to help them quickly add support for the standard. Ultimately, however, it is the operators who are responsible for launching and maintaining RCS. Recently, there was important news that the launch of the service is starting Verizon, but to begin with – on a very limited scale. Verizon currently only offers it on Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones – and even then not to all users. But since Verizon supports the Universal Profile (more on that below), the standard will work on any other phone that supports it.

It looks a bit confusing that most of the operators chose the name Chat for their RCS services. After all, Google itself already has a product called Hangouts Chat, which is used in a corporate environment and will obviously reach customers.

If you have Chat, you can send messages to someone who does not have support for this service, and then they will receive a regular SMS text message. Thus, while the service is in a very limited test stage.

RCS messages: what they are

There are a number of other carriers that support RCS. T-Mobile added RCS with Universal Profile 1.0 to its Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge in June. Sprint announced that it is adding RCS with the Universal Profile to its devices in early November, and promised that all new devices in 2019 will come with RCS pre-installed. Wherever the Universal Profile is used, carrier-to-carrier messaging should be supported, but if you look at carrier sites, they only talk about communication within their networks. We haven't yet had a chance to test whether RCS-enabled T-Mobile or Sprint devices can exchange RCS messages with Pixel 3 smartphones.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that a number of carriers and device manufacturers currently use RCS, but not the Universal Profile (which is used in Chat), so their applications and services are not compatible with those used by other vendors.

Why do people think it's unsafe?

There is a problem pointed out by many security obsessed users: RCS – and by extension apps like Chat – don't have the end-to-end encryption available on popular messengers like WhatsApp. End-to-end encryption makes the message inaccessible to everyone – even to the application developer and network provider. It is available only to the sender and recipient. Do you want to be sure that your correspondence does not end up in third hands? Then Chat / RCS is not an option.

On the other hand, RCS has all the standard security protocols, including Transport Layer Security (the technology behind HTTPS) and IPsec (Internet Protocol Security), which is used in VPNs. So, for the most part, it's safe. As a result, how comfortable you will be using Chat / RCS depends only on your security requirements.

What's next?

RCS support is currently limited to only a few carriers and even fewer devices, which means that most people do not benefit from the new standard. Let's see how it develops in the future.

What do you think, dear readers? Do you think the initiative is stillborn, since a full transition to using instant messengers is just a matter of time? Or is it worth giving a chance to 'improved sms?'. And what are the prospects for the new standard in our country, where a fairly large percentage of users remain faithful to the usual SMS?

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