Updated On Jun 5, 2024
Duration 10 mins read

Surinder Anand is an expert in RCS Business Messaging (RBM) with deep technical and product knowledge, experience in launching and monetizing RCS Business Messaging. As the co-founder and CTO & VP Product Management of Dotgo, Surinder has led the conception, architecture, development and launch of the Dotgo MaaP and RBM Hub, that carries upward of 1 billion paid RBM messages per month globally. Surinder has been in the forefront shaping the RCS ecosystem with his active participation and leadership in Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) and GSMA. Surinder is author of several patents including a few in the area of RCS and rich business messaging.

Prior to founding Dotgo, Surinder held leadership positions at Kirusa, Savera Systems, Network Programs, and Hughes Software Systems, showcasing a strong background in product management and technical leadership. 

At Hughes, Surinder led the development of Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) technology for providing mobile data service utilizing unused bandwidth from the underlying Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) mobile service in North America.

Prior to that Surinder did pioneering work as part of ERNet project to build OSI and TCP/IP based LAN and WAN across India in the early 1990s, including launching SMTP and X.400 based email and X.500 Directory and LDAP services.

Surinder is a proud IITian having gotten his M. Tech. in Computer Science, and B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

About The Series
This is the eighth installment in the “One Expert, One Topic” series, where field experts select a topic and share essential insights using Matt Abrahams’ What/So-What/Now-What format. Presented in written form, it allows you more time to absorb the topic and guides you on where to go for further learning. Writing is both challenging and time-consuming; we are grateful to our contributors for sharing their wisdom in this format. 

RCS is the long awaited upgrade from SMS and MMS. Building RCS Apps will push even seasoned technical leaders for all the tools it offers, the complexity it masks, and the use cases it enables. It is important to understand how RCS works, how it can be used to build state-of-art RCS applications. 

Building RCS Apps will push even seasoned technical leaders for all the tools it offers, the complexity it masks, and the use cases it enables. It is important to understand how RCS works, how it can be used to build state-of-art messaging applications. 

So what is RCS? Since its humble beginnings in 1992 with the first SMS being sent, mobile messaging grew leaps and bounds and established an important place in our daily lives, including the rollout of Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). 

While SMS grew leaps and bounds since its launch in 1992, the lack of rich features in SMS allowed the wide-scale adoption of OTT messaging apps with rich messaging capabilities, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram, LINE and WeChat.

Parallel to the growth of OTT apps, mobile operators started working on Rich Communication Suite, an initiative to define a new standard to replace SMS and MMS. From 2008 to 2016, the GSMA published multiple  versions of the RCS standards culminating in the release of the first version of the Universal Profile, a globally accepted standard for RCS that enabled operators to interoprate. Universal Profile 2.0 (commonly known as UP 2.0), added Messaging as a Platform (MaaP) to support for A2P and P2A messaging.

Implementation of RCS required mobile operators to deploy RCS Application Server over IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) infrastructure. Several companies such as Jibe Mobile, Mavenir, Samsung, WIT Software, Huawei, Summit Tech Interop Technologies offered RCS solutions for carriers. In addition to these, Vodafone Group invested to build an inhouse RCS solution for Vodafone operators. In 2015, Google acquired Jibe Mobile, an early leader in cloud based RCS solutions, with the goal to bring RCS messaging to Android. After many years of fragmentation, the industry is coalescing around widespread adoption of the Jibe platform to provide a uniform RCS experience to users.

So What
While A2P SMS has continued to grow and remain relevant for businesses, rich business messaging over OTT apps has started taking away a share of the pie from SMS and MMS, the mobile operator’s messaging channel. Further, brands are seeking rich messaging, interactivity and improved engagement metrics when investing in messaging channels. Further, the rapid advancements in generative AI have made it possible to power AI driven chatbots that can support users over a two way interactive messaging channel such as RBM.

RBM offers a compelling new channel that competes favorably with OTT apps in terms of features and capabilities with growing reach and attractive pricing model. In addition to the per-message pricing model that has been prevalent for SMS and MMS, RBM supports attractive pricing models for brands that plan to support interactive journeys with users with multiple messages being exchanged within a specified time duration. These interactive journeys can be with a chatbot or a human agent interacting with the user. The RBM ecosystem today supports per session billing fee for 24 hour A2P and P2A Conversations.  

RCS Business Messaging offers several features that are at par with or more advanced than OTT messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber and Telegram. These include:

  • Verified Sender: Each brand is verified before they can send RBM messages to users, which is indicated by the Verified trustmark in front of the Brand’s name.
  • Branding: The Sender Id of the Brand includes a logo and a banner image chosen by the brand. The brand logo is sent with every message from the Brand to the user, further strengthening the user’s trust in the brand.
  • Delivery and Read receipts: RBM enables brands to be notified when a message is delivered to the user’s device and also when a user has opened the message.
  • Enhanced Messaging: In addition to supporting long text messages, RBM supports media messages including PDF, images and videos.
  • Rich Card and Carousel: RBM allows Brands to send images and videos as part of a standalone rich card or as a part of a carousel of up to 10 horizontally scrollable rich cards. Each rich card can have an image or a video, along with title, description and suggested reply and action buttons.
  • Suggested Replies and Actions: RBM supports interactive buttons that the users can tap to reply to the Brand or to take an action. These can be associated with a rich card, or sent after a message as a collection of horizontally scrollable chip list of suggested reply and suggested action buttons.
    The following Suggested Actions are supported in RBM:
    • Open a URL: Tapping on an openURL button takes the user to a webpage. The OpenURL action can also be used to support App downloads, Google Wallet, YouTube and other Google services.
    • Dial a number: This suggested action opens the phone’s default dialer app to call the number associated with the button.
    • View location: This can be used by the brand to send a location to the user based on coordinates (latitude and longitude) or a search query.
    • Share location: Brand can also send the Share location suggested action to request the user to share their location with the Brand.  
    • Create a calendar event: The create calendar action allows a user to add an event to their Google Calendar. 

These rich capabilities also make RBM chatbots a compelling alternative to building Smartphone apps, given the challenges of getting users to download different apps for each Brand and the need to frequently have the users update the app as new features are added or issues fixed by the Brand. RBM chatbots allow users to engage with the same level of  richness and interactivity inside a single native messaging app for SMS, MSS and RCS.

Over the last few years the reach of both P2P RCS and RBM for A2P and P2A messaging has seen rapid acceleration and is gaining momentum in several key markets. Today, the reach in several key markets has reached the critical mass needed for brands to invest in the channel. These include markets such as India, Brazil, Mexico, UK, Spain, Germany, France, Italy and South Africa. RBM in India, powered by the Dotgo MaaP and Managed Services, provides uniform RBM policies, common onboarding and verification of brands, uniform pricing model, leading to steady and growing adoption of RBM by businesses across various industries.

Now What
There is speculation in the messaging industry that Apple will announce support for RCS on iPhone during the WWDC24 in June this year. In line with past rollout of new features by Apple, developers may getbeta access to RCS and RBM starting June, with the feature being rolled out to users in September. It is expected that iMessage will support Universal Profile 2.4 (including support for RBM).

If the eagerly anticipated support for RCS on iPhone does happen, it will accelerate the adoption and reach of RCS in several key markets that have significant iPhone adoption, such as US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and several other Scandinavian and Western European countries.

Businesses can start taking advantage of this new rich business messaging channel to upgrade existing use cases as well as implement new ones that are made possible with the rich and interactive features of RBM. While there are similarities between SMS and RCS and between RCS and other OTT messaging channels, such as WhatsApp and Viber, RCS has some key differences as well.

Like SMS and MMS, RCS is a carrier service that requires technical integration and commercial agreement with every operator in order to have full reach. While SMS has a matured ecosystem with a large number of “aggregators” who can offer global reach by integrating with one or more other aggregators, combined with optionally having direct carrier terminations for a few key markets, the RBM ecosystem is still taking root with only a handful of players with such capability. Further, RBM requires a more stringent process for verification and launch of RBM Agents, a prerequisite for sending RBM messages to a broad base of users.

Developers, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and System Integrators (SIs), who are familiar with SMPP and SMS APIs, need to start using RCS APIs to add RCS capabilities to their applications. There are two commonly used APIs for RCS – the standard RCS API specified by GSMA API (FNW.11) and the Google RBM API supported by Google Jibe.  

Developers, ISVs, and SI’s who want to start using RCS business messaging, can leverage the Dotgo Developer platform to incorporate RCS into their applications.  Dotgo offers a choice of APIs for sending traffic (GSMA FNW.11 or Google RBM API), templates, campaign manager, along with APIs to manage the onboarding, verification and launch of RBM Agents.

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