RCS (Rich Communicating Services), the future of the SMS. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
DURBAN - RCS (Rich Communications Services) is making its way around the world and is touted as the successor of sorts to SMS. 

According to David O'Byrne, the RCS lead at the GSMA, the organisation at the wheel of the standard said: "Rich Communications Services or RCS is an upgrade to traditional SMS messaging."

He added that RCS enables consumers to use familiar messaging features such as chat, group chat, file transfer, stickers, audio messaging, video share, enriched calling, location share and live sketching all from the smartphone itself without having to download any apps. 

RCS hopes to be as smooth as making a call or writing an SMS without the need for any additional apps. RCS also utilises data connectivity instead. 

At the moment RCS has 137 million users which expected to increase to 350 million by 2018. 

What makes RCS unique compared to iMessage and Whatsapp is chatbots, plugins and other cool uses according to O'Byrne. 

O'Byrne said, "This will allow customers to make restaurant reservations, book train tickets or make retail purchases entirely via messaging without human interaction". 

The transactions are time-stamped, authenticating purchases giving the consumer peace of mind. Numerous purchases can also be joined into one interface.

Mobile networks will have the chance "to increase engagement with their subscribers while brands will be able to maintain a direct line to their customers and improve business interactions". 

GSMA has their own take on this matter. They said "It is early days but we do not anticipate that brands will to put off consumers by bombarding them with unsolicited messages or the service will become unattractive. We expect that it will allow consumers to control how much access a brand can have with them". 

Various leading operators and entities in Africa have been vocal about their support for RCS including MTN, Orange, Vodafone, Beeline, Etisalat and Airtel.

The GSMA lists Vodacom as the ones that launched RCS four years ago. 

You can use RCS on an unsupported network but it will only have the range of capabilities of an SMS and MMS app. 

If you message someone that does not have RCS on their phone or network then the handset automatically identifies that the other person does not have RCS or is out of data network and the message will be sent as an SMS.

If the message has an attached file then the other person will get a link to a server in the operator's network where the attached file can be downloaded.