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[Update: Google responds] Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile join forces to bring RCS to Android in 2020

Here’s a shocker. All four major US carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile — have just announced that they’re joining forces to deliver RCS messaging in the US for Android smartphones in 2020.

Google has been pushing RCS messaging for Android smartphones for the past couple of years now, but its efforts have seen a very slow rollout. Earlier this year, Google decided to leapfrog carriers and start rolling out RCS independently through the Google Messages app in some regions, but not in the United States.

So far, only select devices on select carriers have been granted access to RCS messaging, but that’s changing next year. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have announced the “Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative” (CCMI), which will be a joint venture to bring RCS to Android smartphones in 2020.

This new service will use the “GSMA’s Rich Communications Service (RCS) industry standard” to create “a single seamless, interoperable RCS experience across carriers, both in the US and globally.” Right now it’s unclear if this will be using the groundwork that Google has laid out for RCS, or if it might require a different app. Notably, there’s no mention of Google in any of the carrier’s press releases.

The Verge was able to get more details on the situation from CCMI directly. The service will be its own Android app – meaning it won’t use Google Messages. Apparently, this new standard will be compatible with the Universal Profile, but it won’t directly follow it either. CCMI also says it is working with companies such as Google and Samsung to make sure their clients are compatible as well.

It also seems like business messaging is the primary point of interest for CCMI as a manager for the initiative, Doug Garland, was quick to highlight this feature as a reason for CCMI existing in the first place.

Update 10/25: Google has also since responded to The Verge with a statement. The company says it is committed to “further enhance the messaging experience” on Android by using RCS,  but it sure sounds like the carriers blindsided Google with this one.

We remain committed to working with the Android ecosystem to further enhance the messaging experience on Android with RCS. It’s great to see U.S. carriers getting behind RCS in a meaningful way and we look forward to continuing to work with them to bring modern messaging to everyone on Android.

In a press release, Verizon explains that CCMI will enable the same RCS features that the upcoming standard has people excited for. This includes high-quality pictures and videos, better group chats, and also some business-oriented features, too. Apparently, more details will be announced at a “later date.”

Working with its carrier ownership group and other companies in the RCS ecosystem, the CCMI service will:

  • Drive a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem and accelerate the adoption of Rich Communications Services (RCS)
  • Enable an enhanced experience to privately send individual or group chats across carriers with high-quality pictures and videos
  • Provide consumers with the ability to chat with their favorite brands, order a ride share, pay bills or schedule appointments, and more
  • Create a single seamless, interoperable RCS experience across carriers, both in the US and globally

It’s still going to be a while before RCS hits your Android smartphone, but at least things are finally picking up steam in the US. It’s just a crying shame it will be relying on an app made by carriers. Let’s all cry out in grief together.

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