Will 5G messaging kill OTT chat apps like WhatsApp?

5G messaging Global smartphone sales have fallen steeply in 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic. It’s widely assumed that the catalyst for recovery will be demand for 5G-enabled devices and that means the rollout of 5G infrastructure.

Whilst the things we can do with 5G, including IoT and AR services, grab headlines, it’s perhaps 5G messaging, enabled by increased bandwidth that will spark interest.  Mr Tu Jiashun, Chief Scientist of Virtualization from mobile handset and technology company,  ZTE, thinks 5G messaging is the game-changer.

When people speak about 5G and the potential it has to dramatically change many things about our lives, much of the focus so far has been on applications that five years ago were mere dreams: automated driving, artificial intelligence, augmented reality. The focus is often on industry and IoT, smart factories and intelligent supply chains.

Less attention has been paid to how 5G will impact the everyday lives for the average consumer.

Something we all do is communicate. Whether it is with friends and family or with colleagues and clients, we all send hundreds of messages a day. Much of this messaging is using traditional SMS or OTT services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or WeChat, and is something we have been taking for granted for years. With the advent of the 5G era however, much of this will change.

Compared with traditional SMS, 5G messaging is a lightweight multimedia message app which is native to the device, instead of the outdated SMS app in Android. 5G messaging is able to send much larger media than traditional SMS, such as high-quality images, videos, locations and files.

In China, huge strides have already been made in the development of 5G messaging capabilities and it is expected that its commercial roll-out will begin this year. As 5G messaging is compatible with existing network infrastructure, this new technology can be fully converged with traditional SMS applications and work on 2G/3G and 4G networks. In short – anyone with a phone will be able to receive 5G messages.

Rich Communication Services

You may be thinking that you can already do all of these things using OTT mobile apps such as WeChat and WhatsApp, so why is this any different? The answer is that 5G messaging is more credible, more accessible and more secure. 5G messaging will be a Rich Communication Service (RCS) giving it all the capabilities, functionalities and ease of use of OTT services without the need to download or subscribe to a new app.

mGageWhile RCS has struggled to really take off despite having been around since the 2000s, 5G looks set to give it a new lease of life.

While RCS has struggled to really take off despite having been around since the 2000s, 5G looks set to give it a new lease of life. Some forecasts suggest that the RCS market is expected to progress from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $3.9 billion in 2025, an annual growth rate of around 15%. Indeed, the world’s major operators, including ATT, T-Mobile and Jio, are all using RCS as their next-generation messaging system.

As RCS relies on both the device and the operator, the system allows for the operator to receive advanced communications leading to greater speeds and a superior user experience when compared to traditional SMS and OTT services. RCS offers consumers the ability to communicate rich content instantly using any network or device.

Because of the competition of OTT services, interoperability cannot be realized between WhatsApp and WeChat while 5G messaging allows messages to be sent and received no matter the operator or device being used – just like traditional SMS.

5G messaging will make modern communications accessible to those who in the past have been somewhat neglected, in rural areas for example due to its enhanced connectivity. Even more significant is the effect this will have on emergency communications. In the aftermath of certain disaster scenarios, communications between the affected area and those who can help will be dramatically improved.

In Zhejiang, China, where there are seasonal typhoons during the summer months, operators and vendors have joined with regional emergency services departments to implement 5G messaging emergency broadcasts. This means that in the face of a typhoon, information including the likely path that the typhoon will take, where to take shelter, and emergency contact information can be broadcast to huge numbers of people at a moment’s notice.

ZTE5G messaging is perhaps the thing that will have the greatest impact on the largest number of people moving into the 5G era.

5G messages will be able to be received by anyone with a device that is switched on and connected to the network. There is no reliance on a third-party application that would require users to be signed up and logged in. Everything is handled by the existing network infrastructure.

5G messaging is based on the security encryption of the SIM card and is bundled with the user’s phone number. This means that in order to send or receive 5G messages you are not required to register to other platforms. This is especially significant at a time when questions have been raised about the security of some instant messaging platforms and the way they can handle and use user data.

When will 5G messaging arrive?

5G messaging is perhaps the thing that will have the greatest impact on the largest number of people moving into the 5G era. In May this year vendors and operators in China launched a 5G messaging service in Hangzhou. A 5G messaging alliance, organised by operators has also been announced to encourage more start-ups to join the development of applications.

Following its success, it is expected that 5G messaging together with a new ecosystem of apps stemming from it will be commercially available across China by the end of June which spell the beginning of a broader roll-out of 5G messaging capabilities around the world.

5G messagingMr Tu Jiashun, Chief Scientist of Virtualization, ZTE