Interview with John Wick, SVP of Network, Syniverse

PARTNER INTERVIEW: John Wick, SVP of Network at Syniverse, tipped enterprise Rich Communication Services (RCS) for takeoff in the second half of 2021, as ecosystem players strike key peering agreements and consumer penetration rates continue to grow.

In an interview with Mobile World Live, Wick acknowledged RCS adoption got off to a slow start but noted “there’s been a lot of movement” over the past 24 months.

Thanks to a slew of operator deployments, he said “there’s a lot of what I’ll describe as islands of RCS capability already in place,” adding most of that activity is focused on enabling person-to-person (P2P) use of the technology. GSMA data showed 90 operators had rolled out RCS technology and there were 444 million global monthly active users as of July 2020.

“What comes next is the [application-to-person] A2P use cases where we invite the enterprises into the equation and start enabling the bot-based activity where enterprises are now interacting with their customers,” Wick explained. Based on Syniverse’s conversations with business and operator partners, Wick said he expects “meaningful activity on the enterprise side in the second half of 2021”. GSMA Intelligence previously forecast the RCS business messaging market will be worth more than $74 billion by 2021.

Wick noted peering arrangements will be key to enabling that movement, since such agreements will vastly extend RCS’s reach and thus the value it offers to enterprises.

Ecosystem players are currently focused on establishing their position in the market and getting customers connected, but Wick predicted their attention will soon turn to striking up conversations with their peers about connecting their respective networks.

“When those [discussions] happen, that’s a good indication we’ve got something good going on here.”

Making RCS a reality

It’s clear that the opportunity, driven by the revolution in functionality will be a game-changer. But how will this become a reality?

The adoption of RCS will depend heavily on several factors that relate to robust interoperability: reach, coverage, security and pricing. Standardisation across the telecoms industry, in fact, will establish a foundation on which RCS can flourish, with interoperability being key to ensuring that access is not limited by network coverage. Networks will also need to work within a centralised model to avoid any drop in access or connectivity for users.

What’s more, quality of service will also be important. Customers will need to love it from day one and see the potential in order to accept this as a channel for the long term.

Why RCS?

RCS is just one of the services Syniverse offers as part of its Intelligent Engagement suite of messaging solutions capable of reaching more than 7 billion devices across more than 200 countries. Other channels supported by its platform, which serves as the foundation of its CPaaS offering, include SMS, MMS, in-app messaging, chat, push notifications, mobile wallet, social media and voice.

But Wick highlighted RCS as having the potential to revolutionise both P2P and A2P communications, due it its ability to support two-way interactions and features including video, file transfers, and purchases in addition to chats. “There’s just really not many limits to it…It stands to be a pretty big game changer from the stance of gone will be the requirement to have to download all these apps to your phone.”

Rather than having to download separate apps to interact with different brands, Wick said RCS will enable consumers to interact with businesses instead through the native messaging client on their device.

“You acknowledge the American Express bot and now you’ve got a relationship with American Express via a native function that came with your handset. In terms of performance of the phone, having the apps, changing passwords, all those things are kind of going to be automated in the background now.”

More work to do

Syniverse is working hard behind the scenes to make this vision a reality. Most recently, it struck a peering agreement with a major technology company to provide RCS capabilities to customers on a tier-1 North American operator’s network. The arrangement made it possible for the operator’s customers to exchange messages with that company’s RCS users across the US, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, Brazil and Mexico.

In addition to establishing broader peering relationships to extend RCS’s reach, Wick said ecosystem players will also need to address security considerations and develop new pricing strategies.

He noted security can be addressed on multiple layers, both at the client and network level, adding the latter should be on par with the level of security used for global operator networks.

In terms of pricing, he said RCS opens the door to new models that are worthy of exploration. Wick explained current models are based on a price per message, with varying quality tiers within that framework. For instance, beyond just sending the message, a provider can charge extra for guaranteed delivery or messages which consumers act upon.

While this model could be applied to RCS in what Wick called a “layup approach,” he added the technology and omnichannel orchestration more generally offers the opportunity to “open the aperture and enable more revenue.”

“There is an opportunity to get a little bit more flexible and come up with more channel-based schemes,” he said, pointing to a use case known as contextual calling, where interaction with an end user is orchestrated and delivered based on real-time contextual variables unique to that user, as one such opportunity.