China Mobile has announced that it is the first Chinese operator to commercially launch RCS services to subscribers across the country from 1st December with the aim of enhancing the communications capabilities of its subscribers. The move is a huge boost for the adoption of RCS services given China’s subscriber base is over a billion connections. China Mobile is, by subscriber base, the world’s largest mobile operator and the largest in China with 62% market share and 885 million subscribers, including 660 million 4G customers (Q1 2018) according to GSMA Intelligence. Launching under a new brand called ‘4G+Smart’, the move will give users access to enhanced features including group chat, high-res photo sharing, file-sharing, location sharing and read receipts that are familiar on many messaging applications but will now be available natively on people’s smartphones without needing to download any apps. It will be available on a number of compatible devices including the Samsung S8 and Huawei Mate 10.
China Mobile’s RCS service is available both natively and as a downloadable app. The native client is designed for the mass consumer market, while the app, which is called ‘And Fei Xin’ focuses more on the enterprise space. China Mobile joins Axiata, AT&T, Bell, Deutsche Telekom, Jio, Orange, MTS, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile, Sprint, Rogers and Vodafone who have already launched RCS services.
The announcement was made at the 5th China Mobile Global Partners Conference at the Guangzhou Baoli Conference and Exhibition Centre in China. The annual event brings China Mobile’s leading partners including Huawei, Tencent and Xiaomi and others to discuss key industry issues such as ICT Industry Development, 5G and IoT. Momentum for RCS is growing around the world. There are currently 50 launched networks and over 157 million active monthly users. The potential for continued growth is also huge. RCS is an upgrade to SMS and SMS remains the world’s largest messaging platform with 3.5 billion global users. The GSMA estimates that by Q4 2018 there will be 350 million users and a billion by Q1 2019.
China Mobile expects to transition to the GSMA’s Universal Profile (UP) which provides an open, consistent and global messaging service across devices. UP is currently backed by over 70 leading operators, vendors and OS providers worldwide. UP 2.0 is also now available and introduces key enablers for Messaging-as-a-Platform (MaaP) as well as improved messaging expressiveness, APIs, plug-in integration and improved authentication and security. It also introduces ‘conversational commerce’ that will enable users to interact with brands within the platform. It is an important step that when combined with network interoperability enables operators to offer a consistent and engaging messaging experience.
The GSMA is also working with the industry to support RCS becoming a leading messaging platform through the creation of the GSMA A2P Future Messaging Labs. These Labs convene the ecosystem of operators, marketing companies, messaging aggregators and brands to work together on key topics such as customer experience, specifications, monetisation, privacy, security and trust and interconnection.