Vodafone leads $8.3M investment in Jibe Mobile

In their bid to remain relevant amid an onslaught of over-the-top communications apps, carriers are pinning their hopes on technologies like Joyn, a GSMA backed serivce that helps operators add  IM, voice, video and file sharing to their existing network services. But Joyn needs the help of some enablers for it to reach its full potential.

That’s where Jibe Mobile comes. The company has built a cloud product that makes it easy for carriers to deliver Joyn services to their customers. And it has an app-to-app platform that makes Joyn and its underlying RCS 5 technology accessible to application developers. And that has, in turn, caught the attention of Vodafone Ventures (s vod), which is leading an $8.3 million investment in Jibe along with Tokyo-based game creator MTI and other investors. It’s the first outside funding Jibe has taken on.

The money will help Jibe build out its platform enabling developers and game makers to easily add Joyn’s rich media communications services. The first major apps and games to use Jibe Mobile to connect through Joyn will begin appearing in the first quarter.

Jibe, JoynJibe co-founder and CEO Amir Sarhangi told me the first opportunities will be in mobile games, helping them get connected the way Xbox Live (s msft) enabled gamers to participate together in games. He said Joyn can enable true mobile multi-player gaming with almost no lag. Over 4G, games can have have 40-60 milliseconds of latency, which can be improved if the carrier integrates with Jibe. That allows for some fast-twitch games that two players can participate in.

It also enables voice, video and IM communication during game sessions. Joyn also allows for easy sharing of photos and files and location data. That could all be useful for other social apps or it could be used by brands to provide better support to customers. There are also applications in education and health care.

Getting people on board Joyn makes sense for carriers like Vodafone. It keeps them in the conversation and helps them compete against over-the-top messaging services. And it ensures that subscribers use more data, which they can charge for.

But Sarhangi said there’s more to it than that. An operator could eventually charge more — say a few dollars a month — to mobile gamers who want a higher level of quality of service for their multiplayer games. That could allow the carrier to sell in essence a high-speed tier, kind of like what home broadband providers do. Operators could even share some of their added data revenue with mobile developers whose games drive these higher subscriptions.

Jibe, Joyn

“You’re going to see more segmentation on pricing of data because voice and data is going down. Carriers will try to recreate new value and services and this is a way for them to do it and be open about it rather than being a dumb pipe,” said Sarhangi. 

As I said with Rebtel’s new developer platform, which also helps voice-enable apps, it’s unclear how many developers will look to connect their apps. Jibe says it has more than 500 developers working on Joyn-enabled apps.

And with Joyn, you’ll need carriers to sign on. Movistar (Telefonica),(s tef) Orange(s fte) and Vodafone jumped on board with Joyn in Spain last month and Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Germany are also joining along with MetroPCS(s pcs) in the U.S. Joyn won’t solve all the carrier problems but it at least give them something to put their hope in as they look to regain some of their declining voice and SMS revenue.