Korea “joyns” the club - smsgateway

Over the holiday period, Rich Messaging bridged another continent, with the eagerly anticipated , , and .smsgateway

Faced with extremely competitive market conditions, the Korean operators have managed an interesting balancing act; achieving a strong, orchestrated service introduction while maintaining a sufficient level of differentiation. The three launches were completely synched on December 26th, but announced in separate press releases and applying slight variations in branding: SK Telecom has labeled their Rich Messaging service “Joyn.T”, whereas Korea Telecom calls it “KT joyn” and LG U+ is displaying creativity in the use of the GSMA’s joyn .

Korean consumers can now download the joyn client, with applicable operator branding for 22 Android (Gingerbread OS) powered Smartphones, and an Apple iOS version of the service due to be launched in the coming months. It seems that all three operators are using the same client, but we are yet to hear who this was developed by.

Operating in the home market of one of the first successful OTT chat players, Kakao Talk, the Korean operators are going head-on with OTT, with focused positioning around service quality, reach and pricing:

Service Quality - All three operators are positioning joyn explicitly as an extension of SMS and MMS, leveraging the reputation of trust and reliability that these services have earned over the years. For instance, the SK Telecom states “Supported by SK Telecom’s strong network capability, joyn.T enables customers to send/receive text messages at the speed and accuracy of the existing SMS text message service.”

Reach - The “It just works” card is played strongly, promising joyn support out-of-the box on every Android phone, as well as a client for iOS, in early 2013.

The availability of national joyn interoperability, the other inherent strength designed into  seems to be the only glitch in the orchestrated communication , with Korea Telecom claiming that “joyn will be interoperated across the three major carriers from the start [December 26 2012]”, but the SK Telecom stating it still “plans to link joyn.T with RCS services of other Korean carriers [in 2013] to enable all mobile customers to enjoy enriched communication”.

A very compelling element in the Korean offering is the joyn interworking with SMS (for chat) and MMS (for file sharing), enabling early joyn adopters to interact with everyone in their address book from the start, whether the other user has joyn or not. The only down side of the Korean approach seems to be that they have chosen to implement this interworking capability in the joyn client as opposed to in the network. This may make it very difficult to ensure a predictable and configurable user experience, leaving it up to handset / client implementation and radio conditions whether a certain message is delivered in the SMS inbox or in joyn chat.

Pricing - Just as the other operators launching joyn around the world, the Korean operators are trying to find the right price for joyn and appear to be using a combined approach. During the introduction period, joyn in Korea will be free of charge until the end of May.

SK Telecom has been the only operator to reveal their plans for the longer term with chat and text messages to be charged at 20 won ($0.02) and video calling 0.6 won per second (around $0.03 per minute). Usage based pricing for a Rich Messaging service such as joyn is a daring approach in an OTT dominated market, although benefits from the advantage of helping to establish the value of the service to the consumer.

However, in a bid to entice users and accelerate uptake in the near-term, SK Telecom have taken the edge off their planned pricing, by stating that they may “allow all of its 3G and LTE subscribers who join the service before [the end of May] to use it for free indefinitely.”

The Korean operator’s synchronized launch of joyn is certainly sending a very strong message to the rest of the market, especially to it’s main competitor Kakao Talk. Boasting additional features and such a tour de force of entry to the market, it’s clear these operators are fighting back – it will certainly be very exciting to watch!

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