The four major US mobile operators AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have announced a
“joint venture” they are calling the “Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative”, or CCMI. It marks a concerted move to bring enriched messaging services to more US smartphone users.
Currently when sending SMS texts, you can’t add many things like emojis and GIFs with the guarantee the person on the other end is going to be able to view it. SMS is rooted in the early 2000s, while services like iMessage (controlled by Apple) and WhatsApp (controlled by Facebook) are alternative apps used by many to send more, well, exciting messages.
The initiative is set to roll out for Android devices across the US in 2020, with a specific date unconfirmed.
CCMI, the operators say, will use RCS which is short for Rich Communications Services. RCS does what it says and improves messaging for users, but it is quite complicated to actually implement, and there is no universal or even countrywide standard for it anywhere.
The news comes the week after T-Mobile and Sprint
announced that its proposed merger was all but approved.
“People love text messaging for a reason. Texting is trusted, reliable and readily available—which is why we’re using it to build the foundation of a simple, immersive messaging experience,” said David Christopher, executive vice president and general manager, AT&T Mobility. “This service will power new and innovative ways for customers to engage with each other and their favorite brands.”
In the US iMessage reins supreme as it is one of the only countries where iPhones are the majority smartphone. It means that Android users still rely on SMS services and all their ancient tech.
For the rest of the world SMS is used a little less, particularly in Europe where WhatsApp is king and in China where WeChat is practically a one app fits all experience for payments and travel as well as messaging.
There are a few things that might put you off using a future version of CCMI though. Unlike iMessage and WhatsApp, RCS services are not end to end encrypted, and when The Verge asked Doug Garland, the general manager at CCMI, he refused to confirm or deny whether the service would be encrypted.