Spain has become the first country in the world where mobile-phone customers can make use of joyn services across all the major networks.
The announcement by the GSM Association, the industry group behind joyn, notes that Telefonica (Madrid, Spain), Orange (Paris, France) and Vodafone (Newbury, UK) have taken the steps needed to provide a fully interoperable service.
Viewed as the telecoms industry’s latest response to the threat posed by ‘over the top’ (OTT) companies like Google (Mountain View, USA) and Skype (Luxembourg), joyn is the brand name for rich communications services-enhanced (RCS-e), a standardized technology that allows customers to use voice and messaging services while exchanging images or video clips at the same time.
At the moment, Telefonica, Orange and Vodafone are offering joyn for Android-based devices, but a version for the iPhone is said to be on its way.
Promoting joyn to a wider audience may be difficult given the popularity of various OTT brands and the apparent lack of a compelling differentiator, but operators may try to highlight the reliability of their own networks in comparison with the open internet.
What’s more, as joyn is rolled out, services are likely to be available on devices ‘out of the box’, while many OTT applications still have to be installed by customers.
The GSMA says joyn-embedded devices are expected to hit retail outlets at the beginning of 2013.
Responding to criticism that joyn has been a long time coming, the GSMA said that devices have to complete interoperability testing and pass a certification process to ensure quality, privacy and security.
“This initial implementation of a new technology clearly required a major effort and strong leadership in the alignment of the ecosystem of manufacturers, developers and integrators, and operators,” said Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer at the GSMA.
Operators looking to provide joyn services first have to deploy IMS, a next-generation network architecture. To provide interoperable services, they must interconnect their IMS systems with their rivals’.
The GSMA reckons the progress in Spain will aid efforts elsewhere.
“joyn services are available now from individual operators in Germany and the United States; further nationwide, cross-operator implementations are expected in Germany this year and in several other European countries during 2013,” said O’Hara.