When it comes to popular mobile apps for messaging and sharing content like Facebook and Twitter, carriers have been on the edges of the picture as data network providers rather than the developers of those services themselves. But a deal signed today between Jibe Mobile and MetroPCS underscores one example of how they hope to become more central players.
Jibe — a provider of a cloud-based platform for voice, video and chat services — has signed up MetroPCS as the latest carrier to use its services. The agreement comes by way of both companies’ involvement with joyn, an initiative backed by the mobile operator association, the GSMA, to help promote cross-platform “rich communication services.” The first fruits of the new deal, covering MetroPCS’s footprint in the U.S., are expected to go live later this year.
With 8.9 million subscribers, MetroPCS is the fifth-largest mobile carrier in the U.S., but a potential merger with T-Mobile’s could see the number of users that might access this service increase by 33.2 million: MetroPCS shareholders are expected to vote for or against the deal on March 28.
In December 2012, Jibe Mobile received a round of $8.3 million led by carrier Vodafone to develop its platform and begin signing up customers. MetroPCS appears the first customer announced since then.
In a way, deals like these are about bringing carriers up to speed with how consumers are already communicating. When we use Facebook on our mobile phones, for example, we don’t think about whether our friends are on the same mobile network before sharing a picture or video, or instant messaging them.
Joyn gives carriers a chance to offer those services to their customers themselves, and go one better by making them something that can be integrated throughout the device and used anywhere a customer wants.
“MetroPCS’ adoption of Jibe Mobile is a major step forward in advancing our commitment to help bridge the worlds of traditional standards-based telecommunications and Silicon Valley-style rapid application development to let carriers and developers connect, and ultimately enhance, the experience of mobile consumer and business subscribers around the world,” said Amir Sarhangi, CEO, Jibe Mobile, in a statement.
MetroPCS last year says it became the first carrier to offer RCS 5.0 (rich communication services) on its LTE network with joyn certification. While some of the functionality for Jibe’s service will rest in the cloud, users download a client app to their devices — be it a phone or tablet or PC — for it to work. As with other apps that enable social communications, users then invite other people to download the app to use it too. Then, depending on what the carrier decides to implement, those communications services can then be integrated and offered on other content and apps on the device.
“Our goal with joyn by MetroPCS was to give consumers a new intuitive and unified communications experience and we are excited about the potential that now exists, through Jibe, for subscribers outside the MetroPCS network to adopt and experience the full range of features and services made possible by RCS,” said Roger Linquist, CEO and Chairman, MetroPCS, in a statement. “We are committed to working with operators and over-the-top providers to demonstrate the benefits of joyn, ensure that true interoperability from any device and carrier is achieved and ultimately see mass adoption of RCS services on a scale similar to SMS or text services.”