With RCS deployed by 53 mobile network operators in 27 countries and 159 million monthly active users in the first quarter of 2018—expected to reach 450 million by 2020 in conservative forecasts and 1 billion in more aggressive ones[i]—the evolution from SMS to RCS seems unstoppable! It will bring fresh air for brands to reach their consumers with rich, engaging content directly on the messaging app without having to invest in developing and maintaining their own mobile applications. MNOs choosing to acquire their own RCS solution should consider it an investment towards obtaining a larger long-term share of the B2C revenue, remaining in control of the brand-consumer relationship, regaining subscriber ownership and becoming a dependable partner in the business messaging space. While it may seem an uphill battle to consider investing in an in-house RCS messaging upgrade, it’s important not to lose sight of the final objective: the B2C revenue potential.
The Digital Billboard Opportunity
Brands see mobile messaging as the ultimate digital billboard and MNOs need to consider:
- Reach — A billboard’s worth is directly proportional to the number of eyeballs it gets. Reach is one of the key elements that will drive the brand’s investment decision to use RCS over other OTT messaging solutions
- Clean Channel — Brands want to make sure their digital billboard is not going to be covered with graffiti. MNOs need to provide a “clean channel” that ensures the conversation between the brand and the consumer will not be shared with third parties for other purposes.
- Richness — The RCS universal profile (UP) provides the rich capabilities that brands demand, but during the transition period in which RCS, MMS and SMS subscribers co-exist, it is important to provide predictable fallback scenarios where the brand understands how their promotional messages will be presented on legacy devices.
- Reward — In the world of free OTT messaging, delivering another “me too” service may not be enough to attract brands. MNOs need to expand their B2C scope to include mechanisms to monetize messaging via sponsoring; for example, by ensuring the received promotional messages from brands that include multimedia content (images, videos, music, etc.) are not consuming the subscriber’s data plan.
- Privacy — Confidential and privacy-sensitive information may be exchanged over the messaging channel and some entities—such as banks and governments—do not want communication with their customers to be vulnerable to eavesdropping.
- Consumer Protection — Security mechanisms ensure the filtering of spam messages, that guarantee the identity of the sender and avoid grey routes (A2P messaging posing as P2P messaging).
- Regulatory Compliance — When a third-party messaging provider owns the end-to-end solution, they have the power to censor a user’s communication. Would the MNO subscribers accept another entity to dictate the laws that govern their private communications? How can an MNO control that basic individual rights—such as free speech—are preserved?
- Backwards Compatibility — In certain regions where MNOs were early RCS adopters, there are RCS networks and devices that were built around the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) SIMPLE IM architecture, which contrasts with the Converged IP Messaging (CPM) implementation that most OTT RCS providers support, hence, it makes them unable to deliver messages to those networks or users. Having an in-network solution that supports both CPM and SIMPLE IM—such as Mavenir—ensures a higher reach for B2C messaging.
Benefits of In-Network Business Messaging
Having an in-network RCS solution allows the MNO to control the end-to-end messaging experience for the user and provides options to develop customizations and differentiators to compete in the race for business messaging revenue. This end-to-end control provides the following advantages:
- Full Subscriber Ownership
- Full Control of the User-Brand Relationship — Brands and brand aggregators connect to the MNO network directly.
- Larger B2C Revenue Potential — Owning the RCS solution means not having to share revenue with a third party.
- End-to-End Security Guarantee — A security guarantee between the client and the messaging server.
- Clear Channel Guarantee —MNOs can ensure brands that their A2P/P2A traffic will not be harvested for metadata and keywords to be sold to the highest bidder.
- Regulatory Compliance — Legal interception as well as data privacy and protection are guaranteed, and all the delicate content stays within the MNO private network.
- Higher Differentiation — It is not another cookie cutter solution. The MNO can create service customizations that differentiate it from the competitors in the eyes of the brands.
Is There a Downside to MNOS?
Yes, there are notable disadvantages of owning an in-network RCS solution for MNOs:
- Technology Obsolescence —MNOs will need to work with the supplier to maintain the RCS network up to date on the latest features and innovations. And past the initial support contract, upgrades can represent a significant investment in both cost and time.
- Service Enhancements — RCS is a key enabler of mobile business messaging, but there are other innovations outside RCS standards that brands expect from a messaging service provider, such as chatbots, artificial intelligence, natural language processing (NLP), mobile payments in the message flow, shopping carts, voice/data rewards, etc.
Finding Your Way With a “MaaP”
Fortunately, there is a way to get the best of both worlds; a way to benefit from the convenience of a cloud-based RCS business messaging solution while retaining a higher level of control and differentiation. There is a third option that allows MNOs to retain control of the brands and the subscriber base and benefit from the cloud economics: leveraging a Messaging-as-a-Platform (MaaP) supplier.
A MaaP solution represents a mediation layer that allows communication between third party businesses (brands and brand aggregators) and consumers. It abstracts the network complexities for the businesses by simple APIs and allows the MNO to rapidly deploy an RCS business messaging solution that enables P2P as well as A2P/P2A messaging traffic.
So what value can a MaaP supplier add?
- Maintains system updates with latest features and provides integration with other OTT messaging systems (such as Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, etc.) as well as ensure a consistent experience for the brands when rich messages need to be downgraded to MMS or SMS.
- Bundles value-added services—such as chatbots, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, mobile payment in the message flow, content (stickers, tones, videos, etc.), e-commerce/shopping cart capabilities, voice/data/point rewards and more.
- Implement integrated network-based signaling firewalls and machine-learning spam and fraud detection systems to protect the consumers and the A2P revenue.
- The MaaP supplier often provides its own cloud infrastructure as a white-label hosted service for MNOs, guaranteeing end-to-end-security, regulatory compliance (data privacy/protection and lawful interception) and a “clean channel” between the brand and the user.
Leveraging a MaaP is an excellent way to reduce the initial costs of deploying RCS services into an MNO network while retaining control of the end-to-end RCS business messaging solution.
Insourcing the Business Messaging Service
At Mavenir, we are convinced that outsourcing the entire RCS business messaging service may not be the best long-term solution for every MNO. Therefore, we advise our customers to consider our in-network and MaaP solutions.
- Moving to a White-Label MaaP — This is less complex in most cases, as the interconnection is similar to the outsourced OTT RCS messaging solution. The MNO disconnects the interfaces between its core network and the OTT RCS service and connects them to the MaaP, which will provide the normalized APIs to the brands as well as messaging interconnection and additional enablers or value-added services.
- Moving to an In-Network RCS Solution — Requires the build-out of the RCS network first, the establishment of interconnection agreements with other MNOs and the integration of third-party enablers/VAS (chatbots, AI, NLP, etc.).
Whatever route is chosen, guaranteeing a smooth transition for the MNO subscribers has an impact on two main aspects:
- The configuration of the user device and RCS interconnection
- The handling of Brands and Aggregators, and their ongoing dialogues
Mavenir provides both on-network RCS Business Messaging Solutions as well as cloud-based, white-label MaaP solutions with multiple business models (CapEx, OpEx, revenue share, etc.). These solutions support assets such as service migration guides and a trained professional services team that allow MNOs to position themselves as the key player in the blooming B2C messaging market.