Rich Communication Services (RCS)

By Joe Callison
5 January, 2020

Short Message Service (SMS) has been used since 1992 for sending text messages over mobile phone carrier service. It is limited to 160 text characters per message. Some enhanced message services were developed that could handle up to 1600 characters per message, but a real advance in capability came into use after about 2005 with Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). This expanded the capability of text messages to also contain files such as photos, videos, audio and documents. The data limit per message was initially 300 KB and then later increased to 600 KB, which is not enough for high resolution photos or video so they are compressed into smaller, grainier images. Since internet servers are utilized for storage and transfer of data between carriers, MMS is not real-time. Another breakthrough has begun to be rolled out in 2019 with Rich Communication Services (RCS). Theoretically the data limit per message is over 10 GB, but in practice may be limited to something less by the carrier service used.  

Adoption of RCS by the mobile phone carriers has been slow to develop because of the necessary changes to the carriers’ networks and software required to support its use. Google recently solved the software problem by introducing an RCS protocol, or Chat as it is called, in a new version of their Messages app, also available in the new Samsung Messages app, that provides the software services to support the RCS capabilities of the carriers. The Messages app from Google, LLC is now available for free download from the Play Store for Android users.

The Chat protocol for RCS supports capabilities such as read receipts, group chats, video chats, typing indicators, live updates, and more. When support of RCS is available from all of the mobile phone carriers, Chat will be possible between any of the carriers’ customers using Android phones. Communications with messaging services or carriers that do not support Chat will revert to SMS/MMS text. Apple has not decided to get on board yet, as they already have all of the capabilities of RCS in their iMessage app plus encryption that Chat currently lacks. Of course, the iMessage features are limited to communications between Apple users.

For more information on RCS or the history of text messaging, see the following link:

Posted by Joe Callison

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