In November 2016, the RCS Universal Profile (Rich Communications Services) was introduced. The technology takes text messaging to the 21st century, emulating many of the features found in IM apps like WhatsApp and iMessage, but working through your phone number like regular SMS or MMS. The only thing is, your carrier needs to support RCS-UP to use the feature, but thankfully, the list is growing.
Another major hurdle with the adoption of RCS Universal Profile stems from the "Universal Profile" part. Before Google purchased Jibe and spearheaded the GSMA's standardization of a set of features that would be included with all RCS-UP compatible devices and carriers, RCS by itself had already existed for four years. This led to fragmentation as several carriers prematurely started implementing their own proprietary versions of RCS, none of which were compatible with the others.
The Universal Profile looks to fix this fragmentation, but it's proving to be an uphill battle. We now have a single, agreed-upon set of standards to make deployment easier and connectivity between different carriers possible. However, many wireless carriers in the US (and around the world) have been slow to adopt these "Universal Profile" standards, thus limiting RCS-UP support. Because of how useful the technology is and the slow rollout, we decided to create this list to help you track the progress of the rollout for your wireless carrier and others.
Verizon: Currently, most Verizon phones support RCS messaging via their Verizon Messages (Message+) app, but this is not Universal Profile, so it only works with other Verizon devices. For enriched communication outside the Verizon network, the nation's largest carrier has only just started rolling out support for RCS Universal Profile. But there's a catch: RCS-UP is currently only available for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL on Verizon. Starting in the first quarter of 2019, Verizon plans to extend support for Universal Profile to all their Android-powered devices.
- Phones: Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL (more devices coming in Q1 2019)
T-Mobile: T-Mobile also uses its own RCS implementation via the feature Advanced Messaging, but again, this is not Universal Profile. As of June 2018, T-Mobile supports Universal Profile 1.0, which it is slowly rolling out to devices, with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge being first in line. With Universal Profile 1.0, users can now transfer files up to 10x larger than in standard MMS, and group chats can have up to 100 participants (up from 20) with a subject and an icon to help identify the chat and an administrator to manage it. T-Mobile is working with Google to implement newer Universal Profile standards soon.
- Phones: Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S7 Metro-variance, S8, S8+, S8 Active, S8 Metro-variance, Note 8, and Note 9
Sprint: Sprint was the first US carrier to implement the RCS Universal Profile. It is running the latest Universal Profile, backed by the Jibe RCS cloud from Google. Since this is a true Universal Profile implementation, all Sprint Android-powered devices are able to use RCS messaging to communicate with both Sprint customers and those on others carriers around the world which support the feature. As of 2017, all new Android devices from Sprint will come preloaded with Android Messages to serve as a front-end for the feature.
- Phones: All Android devices officially released on Sprint
US Cellular: Similar to Sprint, US Cellular has implemented true RCS Universal Profile. It is running the latest Universal Profile too, and like Sprint, it is powered by the Jibe RCS cloud from Google, which means that all US Cellular Android devices can communicate within and outside of the network using RCS messaging as long as the recipient supports the feature. For US Cellular devices, subscribers need to use the preloaded Android Messages app or download the app from the Play Store.
- Phones: All Android devices officially released on US Cellular
Google Fi: After months of waiting, the MVNO owned by Google finally support RCS messaging. As expected, it is fully supported by all devices with variants on Google Fi (which happens to only be Android powered devices). It also supports compatible Android phones brought to the network such as phones created Samsung (such as the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9). You need to use the Android Messages app and supports communication between both Google Fi subscribers and other carriers which supports Universal Profile.
- Phones:All Google Fi phone variants and compatible Android devices brought to the network
In addition to postpaid wireless carriers, a number of prepaid carriers support RCS Universal Profile as well. Here is a list of carriers which fully support the feature:
- Boost Mobile
- Freedom Mobile
- NTT DoCoMo
- Straight Talk
- Telcel América
- Tiercel Wireless
- Total Wireless
- Virgin Mobile
AT&T: AT&T is the only major US wireless carrier that has yet to implement the Universal Profile in any capacity. Instead, AT&T subscribers are stuck with their proprietary version known as AT&T Advanced Messaging. This version allows for some of the RCS features, but is limited to only a handful of devices (Samsung Galaxy S7, S9, S9+, and Note 9) and only works when all members are AT&T subscribers. AT&T is exploring interoperability with other carriers via Universal Profile, but no timeline has been announced as of this writing.
Google Voice: The service started by Google will also be supporting RCS messaging. Back in 2017 when the service received its first significant overhaul in years, a spokesperson from Google stated they are working to implement RCS Universal Profile. However, just like Google Fi, Google has been largely quiet about an actual timetable.
Outside of the US, there are a number of wireless carriers which have already implemented the technology. Here is a list of the carriers that fully support both RCS Messaging and Universal Profile.
- América Móvil - Latin America
- Claro - Argentia, Brazil, Colmbia, Ecuador, Peru
- Deutsche Telekom - Germany
- Fido Solutions - Canada
- Freedom Mobile - Canada
- Globe Telecom - Philippines
- KDDI - Japan
- Magyar Telekom - Hungary
- NTT Docomo - Japan
- Oi - Latin America
- Orange - France, Romania
- Rogers Wireless - Canada
- SFR - France
- SoftBank Corp. - Japan
- Telcel - Mexico
- Telefónica - Spain
- Telia - Sweden
- Telstra - Australia
- Vodacom - South Africa
- Vodafone - Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom
- Virgin Mobile - Canada