Will 5G Messaging Kill OTT Chat Apps Like WhatsApp?

Global smartphone sales have fallen steeply in 2020 due to the 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, and 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 of 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with traditional SMS, 5G messaging is a lightweight multimedia message app that is native to the device, instead of the outdated SMS app in Android.

5G messaging can 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.

Will 5G Messaging Kill OTT Chat Apps Like WhatsApp?

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.

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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.

While RCS has struggled to 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.

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