China Focus: Telecom giants to recast SMS messaging as 5G darling

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-09 21:42:52|Editor: huaxia

by Xinhua writers Zhou Qianxian and Zheng Xin

BEIJING, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Imagine one versatile killer app that bundles together the functions of WeChat, TikTok and so on and one that gets unanimous support of the telecom and smartphone giants in the world's largest 5G market.

It is one app people have been all too familiar but indifferent about: short message service (SMS). In the 5G era, the once monotonous receptacle is expected to bring billions of users only one tap away from the one-suits-all portal of mobile services.

The heyday of SMS has been long gone, dethroned by a myriad of instant messaging and social media apps which now serve as the go-to option of communication. But China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom see 5G as the game changer to breathe new life into the old-fashioned service.

On Wednesday, China's three top mobile operators presented a high-profile debut of a plan to overhaul the decades-old SMS with the next generation communication technology, enabling users to access a brand new feature called 5G messaging.

The carriers vowed to improve text messaging system to give users access to enhanced features including the sharing of high-resolution photos, files, locations and coupons. In addition, users can enjoy a one-stop service experience such as search, discovery, interaction, and payment through a new interaction mode.

The new features will allow enterprises or governments to better interact with end users and customize their services through multiple media formats, according to the operators.

For instance, users don't have to download a variety of mobile apps for train ticket booking, payment and changing. They can do this by just sending a message or clicking keywords within the message itself.

Smartphone giants including ZTE, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and Samsung are all enthusiastic and plan to equip their future gadgets with the 5G messaging feature.

ZTE said the company and China Mobile had recently successfully conducted the first test of 5G messaging in east China's Hangzhou, which marked the official countdown to the service's commercialization in China.

Huawei announced at the launch that it will start testing this feature Friday and hopes to roll out commercial 5G messaging services in June.

It is rare to see one new service that can win the support of so many key market players. Many industry analysts share their bullishness and expect 5G messaging to be a qualified challenger to established apps.

While instant messaging apps such as WeChat already have such features, the apps usually focus on multimedia communication among friends. By contrast, 5G messaging enables interactive communication among weak ties, facilitating better flow of commercial information, Huaxi Securities noted.

5G messaging won't replace messaging apps, but will be the next evolution of operator-led short messaging service and play an essential role at the heart of the new messaging ecosystem, said Mary Clark, Chief Product Officer of Synchronoss Technologies Corporation.

GSMA, an international association in the mobile industry, has already planned to include 5G messages into the required functions of 5G terminals. "5G messaging is the common choice of global operators," said Dong Xin, deputy general manager of China Mobile.

China, which greenlighted the commercial use of the 5G technology last June, is accelerating 5G deployment and trying to enrich application scenarios, which are still at an early stage.

Prefecture-level cities are expected to achieve continuous outdoor connection of the 5G network within this year, with key areas in counties and townships to be covered, as well as major indoor scenarios.

The country will also boost investments, cultivate new consumption models, speed up the migration to 5G, and promote the development of "5G plus" as it seeks to deploy "new infrastructure" projects to offset the economic impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

China is expected to have over 600 million 5G subscribers by 2025, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the global total with more than 164,000 5G base stations already deployed, according to GSMA Greater China.

It is expected that all parties in the industry chain can work together to build the 5G messaging ecosystem, upgrade the service experience for mobile users, and boost the industry application value of information service, said Fan Yunjun, deputy general manager of China Unicom.

After the launch, shares related to 5G messaging in China's equity market rocketed to the roof for two days in a row.