Q&A with ZTE's Jason Tu on 5G Messaging

In this Q&A with Developing Telecoms, Jason Tu of ZTE gives an overview of the market opportunity for 5G Messaging and outlines the work ZTE Corporation is doing in this important market.

DT: What key drivers are leading to the development of 5G Messaging services at present?

The communications industry urgently needs a neutral, open, and lightweight messaging platform to compete with the OTT apps. Existing social networking and IM (Instant Message) software has become like a monopoly, which is unfair to consumers and to new entrants who needs a fair and neutral communication platform.

DT: How secure is 5G Messaging?

Unlike OTT apps, 5G messaging is a terminal native application. As a result it is lightweight, more secure and reliable, and is more suitable for delivering universal service obligations such as emergency disaster alarms. In this way it is very like SMS. 5G messaging does not need to be downloaded or installed and users do not need a separate username and password to use it.

5G Messaging users’ security authentication is based on the 128 bit hardware encryption technology of the SIM card. This level of security mechanism works at a much higher level than the common username/password used by OTT apps, and is the same as the security protocols used by electronic banking.

DT: How easy is 5G Messaging to set up and use?

Compared with SMS, 5G messaging can send a variety of multimedia information such as texts, videos, voice, pictures and H5 links to individuals and enterprises. Through the interactive interface, almost all kinds of OTT experiences can be replicated but without the need to install any 3rd party apps.

Currently, apps need to be installed to implement different applications, for example e-shopping, entertainment, e-banking, etc, which is both complicated and risky for operators and end users. With 5G Messaging systems, when users send voice or text messages to different service hotline numbers, AI-based chatbots establish a chat with the user to understand their service requirements and push related multimedia menus and H5 links to guide them through a range of service options. 5G Messaging integrates the advantages of OTT apps and SMS which will open up a completely new market for operators and service providers.

As an IP-based communication system, 5G Messaging can be implemented on any IP channel, including 2/3/4/5 and WiFi. For old terminals that do not support 5G messaging, the system uses SMS and MMS for automatic response fallback adaptation. 5G Messaging is especially suitable for replacing traditional call centres or customer service systems and helping customers access a range of services through chat. Compared with web pages and apps, chat modes can improve customer experience. Compared with a manual call centre, 5G Messaging can save a lot of costs by adopting cloud technology, AI chatbots and big data.

DT: Have the standards to enable 5G Messaging to deployed been finalised and agreed globally?

5G Messaging is a chat based IP multimedia communication service which is compatible with the RCS standards defined by the GSMA. 5G Messaging is an upgrade of traditional messaging systems and fully compatible with 2/3/4G SMS and MMS. With cloud technologies, chat robot, and other new technologies and business models, 5G Messaging will bring innovations in vertical industries, especially following the introducation of 5G.

DT: How has ZTE contributed to the development of 5G Messaging and who are your main partners?

ZTE is committed to improving 5G message standards. ZTE has completed over 40 of the GSMA and OMA standards proposals. ZTE is the major supplier of China's three major operators’ 5G Messaging networks, of which CMCC's is the largest RCS network in the world.

ZTE has established the 5G Messaging OpenLab to provide solution incubation and joint verification services for vertical industry partners. At present, OpenLab has been accessed by over 40 service providers and completed the application verification for over 120 5G Messaging vertical applications. The effect of this is to greatly shorten the time needed for vertical industries to interconnect with operators’ 5G Messaging networks.

Seven mainstream terminal manufacturers, including ZTE, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, VIVO, Samsung and Mei Clan have completed the adaptation test to support 5G messaging. Currently, there are over 50 terminal models in the existing network that have been upgraded. All 5G mobile phones released by ZTE from 2021 will support 5G messaging by default. At present, the platform has certified over 300 applications in nine major industries such as Smart City, industry and finance.

DT: What benefits does 5G Messaging offer to network operators and service providers?

5G Messaging uses cloud based technology, AI and big data technologies to upgrade their traditional SMS networks. Operators can demonstrate the B2B and B2C services orientation and IoT capability of 5G Messaging in different vertical industries which will assist them to expand their services in profitable B2B, B2C and IoT markets.

DT: When will commercial 5G Messaging services be available and how large is the market forecast to be?

A leading China based analyst predicted during MWC Shanghai 2021 that the commercial market for 5G Messaging in China will be worth up to 400 billion RBM in China (https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/gd4bzMEvRCNf7Y15uC2hng).

5G Messaging will be put into large-scale commercial use in China during 2021. Compatible RCS has been operating in other countries around the world for some time with more than 90 RCS networks deployed in over 60 countries, which supports the roaming and interworking of 5G messaging around the world.

ZTE sent the world's first 5G message with China Mobile Zhejiang Branch at the end of June 2020. Since then ZTE has won the largest market share from all three operators in China, and has built the world's largest commercial 5G Messaging network. ZTE is the market leader in 5G messaging in China.

Jason Tu is Principal Scientist for NFV/SDN Products at ZTE Corporation

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ZTE Corporation is a global leader in telecommunications and information technology. Founded in 1985, ZTE is committed to providing integrated end-to-end innovations to deliver excellence and value to consumers, carriers, businesses and government and enterprise network customers. Working in over 160 countries, ZTE has the most complete telecommunications product line in the world, covering every vertical sector of wireless networks, core networks, access & bearer networks, services and terminals markets. For more information visit www.zte.com.cn