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Enhanced messaging in the 5G era


PARTNER CONTENT: Mobile operators have an opportunity to tap into the growing interest in omnichannel strategies by investing in new rich media messaging systems powered by 5G technologies to target the lucrative enterprise segment with value-added features.
The ability to directly authenticate enterprise messaging traffic also will give operators a more efficient anti-fraud detection option over established SMS traffic analysis and a means to increase revenue from businesses.

Juniper Research forecasts global operator-led mobile messaging revenue to increase marginally from $87 billion in 2020 to $88 billion in 2025, as SMS revenue is expected to decline from $66 billion to $61 billion over that period due to falling peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic.

A June report urged operators to follow the US market, which is expected to account for 54 per cent of global MMS and RCS traffic globally by 2025. It highlighted the ability of messaging platforms to offer a comprehensive portfolio of messaging products, enabling enterprises to leverage rich media messaging for high-value marketing use cases.

ZTE VP Wang Quan said 5G messaging can empower thousands of industries and will connect the last mile for services for end-users.
As terminals begin to have native support for 5G messaging, users won’t need to download third-party apps. Wang said 5G messaging can directly reach users through mobile phone numbers to provide rich media and session interaction capabilities, as well as meet users’ information communication requirements.

Progress update

RCS is a GSMA-backed messaging platform combining the capabilities of SMS with OTT services. GSMA Intelligence figures state 92 operators launched RCS services as of end-May, with 403 million active monthly users. Previously, it forecast the market value would hit $74 billion in 2021.

Backers of the messaging platform argue it will enable more personalised and secure user experiences with a range of interactive options and robust text that will help brands grab consumers’ attention. RCS trials show customer engagement and sales increase with enhanced messaging and click-through rates increased by more than 40 per cent than comparable campaigns without it. In addition, RCS-enabled rich business messaging verification standards increase consumer confidence.

Back in 2018, Japan’s mobile operators joined together to develop a new messaging service conforming to RCS to compete directly against the popular Line app, which has a near monopoly in messaging in the country.

NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank introduced the +Message service allowing users to send photos, movies, stickers, voice messages and group chats. Adoption of the new service increased rapidly, reaching more than 22 million at end-February 2021.

All three operators launched an enterprise version (RCS Business Messaging) of the service in 2019. The three promote RBM as highly reliable, providing a trusted and secure channel. Brands and chatbots are verified and authenticated by MVNs.

The operators recommend the service be used for all types of messaging, alerts for financial services and IoT applications, such as smart meters.
Data shows A2P use cases have been particularly successful, with open rates of more than 85 per cent, and click-through rates of 40 per cent, which is higher than comparable SMS campaigns. Exit rates also are low compared with web-based campaigns.

Fighting back

In South Korea, SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus teamed up in 2019 to launch an RCS-based messaging service called Chatting Plus, taking aim at the country’s leading messaging app KakaoTalk. The service offers messages up to 2,700 characters in Korean and 4,000 characters in English, along with group conversations of up to 100 people and file transfers up to 100MB.

In April 2020, China’s three major mobile players released a 5G messaging white paper outlining their commitment to mandate all compatible handsets sold in the country support RCS. The move to adopt the GSMA’s Universal Profile specification was backed by more than 12 major hardware vendors including ZTE, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, Huawei, Lenovo and Samsung.

Wang said all ZTE 5G mobile phone launched this year support 5G messaging.
To accelerate industrial upgrades, ZTE launched Openlab 2.0 and released the first certification system in the industry, providing service providers with suggestions on 5G messaging technology, operations and training.

The three operators in China have built 5G messaging systems currently supporting 160 million subscribers, just about six months after the commercial launch. More than 10 million terminals can meet the Universal Profile 2.4 function, he said. For industry customers, nearly 300 CSPs have participated in the development of thousands of chatbots.

The operators said RCS is necessary to support new 5G-enabled services, with the platform supporting features such as messaging over Wi-Fi, rich media sharing and group chats.

The following month, T-Mobile US partnered with Google to accelerate the expansion of RCS, allowing US operators’ customers to use advanced capabilities when messaging Android users in other countries. The operator was the first in the US to launch RCS and enable advanced messaging between users on its network, adding support for Universal Profile in 2018.

RCS also has attracted growing attention outside of the traditional telecoms operator segment, with Google in November 2020 completing an effort to bring RCS to Android users globally through its Messages app. At the time, the search giant also announced plans start beta test end-to-end encryption of messages, initially targeting one-to-one conversations between people using the Messages app with RCS features enabled.


The long-term objective is for 5G messaging to be embedded in all devices, eliminating the need for users to download various apps, which is being pushed in China. It is an upgrade to SMS, seamlessly integrated with SMS in handsets and featuring carrier-grade services such as E.164 numbering, real-name security and interoperability.

It can improve the user experience by supporting multimedia formats, including text, audio, images, video and geo-location, combined with a user-friendly interface. P2P messaging includes one-to-one messaging, one-to-many and group chat. Application-to-person (A2P) messaging is also supported.

Players across the ecosystem are looking at the next steps to advance the penetration of next-generation messaging. These including agreeing on the common challenges and on approaches to solve them. Among the most significant of these are on the specifications side, where there remains a limited installed base of Universal Profile 2.0 and large quantities of older devices which cannot be upgraded. The gap between implementations of Universal Profile needs to be bridged over the next year.

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