People using smartphone near a 5G sign showing introduction of 5G messaging service to unseat WeChat

Chinese Telecom Giants Join Forces to Replace WeChat With a 5G Messaging Service

A group of top Chinese telecom operators jointly introduced a new 5G messaging service that seeks to replace the popular Chinese messaging app, WeChat. The 5G messaging service will allow users to send rich communication messages with the integration of text, pictures, audio, video, location, and other information.

Ways that the 5G messaging service differs from the traditional SMS

According to the telecom operators, the new 5G messaging service will be an upgrade of the native short message service and will operate like a mini-program. It will break the text limitation of the native text messaging service that can only support 150 characters or the 70 Chinese symbols.

Apart from multimedia messaging, 5G messaging technology will incorporate commercial messaging, intelligent messaging, interactive services, security, and anti-counterfeiting.

5G messaging also allows encrypted transmission of information and graphic passwords, thus making it safer for information transmission.

5G messaging service better than WeChat

Unlike WeChat, the 5G messaging service is preferred by global operators because it is based on the GSMA RCS standard.

Because it operates as a program, users can perform various actions through a text message on one communication interface. Activities such as ticket booking payment and ticket change will be possible through the new technology. Intelligent messaging features will allow users to accomplish more through keyword selection. Enterprises can also keep tabs with users through rich media such as voice and text.

Most global operators are also focused on introducing the Rich Media Short Messages (RCS), which will become an industry standard. GSMA predicts that the market for industrial text messages based on RCS will reach $74 billion by 2021.

Despite the ambitious project, unseating WeChat is not a small undertaking. WeChat boasts of about 1.1 billion users in China. Having such a large market share, the only way the telecom giants can defeat the messaging application is by changing user behavior. Currently, most users have no interest in using native text messaging. Despite the added features, reintroducing a native short messaging technology is not a trivial undertaking. Additionally, the popularity of the service will depend on the adoption of 5G network technology by various users. Another hurdle that the operators must overcome to depose WeChat is the device compatibility. The majority of the users currently possess handsets that do not support 5G technology. This means that until 5G technology becomes the common choice for all users, WeChat will remain the most dominant messaging application in the country.

Ma Jihua, a Senior telecommunication analyst, says the value of the 5G messaging will be realized in the 5G-era when mobile internet, Internet of Things, and diversified terminals become integrated. WeChat currently holds a dominant position because it does not depend on any unique technology and operates on all platforms that can access the internet.

A collective effort to introduce the technology

The project to introduce commercial 5G messaging service is a joint effort of China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom. Chinese device manufacturers are also interested in the technology. Huawei, Xiaomi, ZTE, OPPO, Vivo, and other companies were present in the joint press conference that announced the new partnership to introduce the 5G messaging service.

Dong Xin, deputy general manager of China Mobile, said his company will work with other industry players to accelerate the development of 5G news and enrich 5G application scenarios. China Telecom will strengthen cooperation with other operators in the industry chain to develop a high-value messaging ecosystem, added deputy general manager, Wang Guoquan. And Fan Yunjun, deputy general manager of China Unicom, said the parties should focus on upgrading the messaging service experience of mobile phone users to boost the application value of the information service industry.

Device operators are also developing mobile phones that will allow the commercialization of 5G products. For example, Samsung is developing devices that support 5G messaging specifications.