Google teams up with LatAm telcos against WhatsApp

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Google announced a partnership with América Móvil, Telefónica and AT&T in Mexico and Brazil's Oi to upgrade traditional SMS to more advanced Rich Communication Service (RCS) messaging.

With RCS messaging, subscribers will have access to all the features of a modern messaging experience, such as the ability to create group chats, see typing indicators and read receipts and share high-resolution photos and videos, Google said in a blog post.

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The new messaging service is yet to be developed and should be rolled out over the coming months to clients of all these companies in Latin America, as well as in Europe. Together, the four carriers account for more than two thirds of all Latin American mobile users.

The service will be powered by Google's Jibe RCS Cloud and will be fully interoperable between networks through the Jibe RCS Hub, Google said. It will be necessary to have an Android messaging app.

"We're also connecting subscribers with other networks on the Jibe RCS Hub such as Sprint and Rogers. So a Telcel subscriber in Mexico City, for example, could have a group chat over RCS with a Movistar subscriber in Mexico City and a Sprint subscriber in the US," read the post.

Google said it has been working with the GSM Association (GSMA) since last year to take RCS to carriers in Europe, North America and Asia. The announcement marks the first such move in Latin America.

The upgrade is aimed at helping operators fend off competition from Facebook's WhatsApp and similar internet-based messaging services, whose widespread adoption has been a major blow to telcos' value-added services (VAS) and SMS revenues.

Several operators began offering unlimited SMS messages for clients, although the offer tends to have a limited appeal to users eager for a more instantaneous messaging experience.

On the other hand, the use of WhatsApp has driven users' need for bigger data plans, which ultimately leads to an increase in operators' average revenue per user (ARPU) metric for data.

As of May, WhatsApp had 1.2bn users worldwide and 120mn users in Brazil alone.