Korean Operators Join Forces on New Mobile Services

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South Korean operators KT, SK Telecom and LG Telecom have become the first to launch mobile services based on the Rich Communication Suite (RCS), industry organization the GSM Association said on Wednesday.

RCS aims to let operators introduce standardized multimedia services that work across multiple operators and networks. It is based on IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) standards, which is a framework for delivering Internet Protocol-based services in fixed and mobile networks, and was first announced in February 2008. In September the GSM Association took charge of its development, which resulted in more companies getting on board.

First generation services include an enhanced phone book, which is what the Korean operators are launching, that features contact information and presence support -- users will be able to see who is available and how they prefer to communicate. Another feature is integration between mobile phones and PC's. RCS also lets users share multimedia content during calls and instant messaging sessions.

One of the most important aspects of the rollout in South Korea, and RCS in general, is that it's a service that works between the three operators, according to Bob Lovett, marketing project director at the GSM Association.

"Who is to say which network any particular user is going to be on, and consequently to make it as inclusive as possible for your close group of friends interoperability is absolutely key," said Lovett.

More commercial services and trials based on RCS are expected around the world in the coming year. The next set of trials are expected to take place this year in Europe and Scandinavia, which will result in more commercial services next year, according to Lovett.

For example, French operators Bouygues Telecom, Orange, SFR are working together and will start a user trial during the second half of the year, they said earlier this year.

Other operators that are members in the GSM Association's RCS project include AT&T, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

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