PARTNER CONTENT: China Mobile has established itself as the leading operator pioneer in 5G New Calling (5GNC) services having launched deployment in 2023 with the first phase of network capacity built to support 50 million users.

In an interview with Mobile World Live at Huawei’s Win Win Live extended reality studio at MWC Barcelona 2024, Sun Shiwei, Deputy General Manager, China Mobile Department of Market Operation, explained 5GNC is a strategic product for the operator. By adding AI and computing capabilities to calls, it upgrades traditional voice and video calling and brings users ultra-high-definition, interaction, intelligent and efficient New Calling experiences.

Indeed, 5GNC is backed by the GSMA. A recent whitepaper from the organisation argues the service offers the following new features: a new experience (the call is enhanced from a pure voice and video communication to a ultra-high-definition, intelligent, and interactive experience); new capabilities (media and data interaction capabilities can be seamlessly integrated into voice and video calls to create rich applications that transform a regular call into a more rewarding or more efficient communication medium); and a new ecosystem (5GNC will create a new ecosystem where many different types of industries will be able to reach their customers through mobile connections by leveraging well known web technology that works out-of-the-box, ‘New Calling Mini-Apps’.)

It’s early days for China Mobile’s 5GNC rollout; Huawei’s flagship mobile phone Mate60 Pro made the first call on its commercial network in October 2023. China Mobile’s provincial subsidiaries then started to gradually open subscriptions to 5GNC services to its user base and by the end of 2023 more than 4 million users had subscribed to 5GNC services.

Although 5GNC is only a few months old, Sun Shiwei outlined clear progress so far, with the launch of multiple services. These include fun calling, calling subtitles, real-time translation, visualized voice calling, and auto transcription. China Mobile and Huawei have also set up a joint service innovation center to create and incubate new services. The visualized voice calling has attracted more than one million users within two months. And in the past Chinese New Year of the Dragon, more than 17 million consumers used its 5G New Calling application for New Year’s greetings.

Network support
Of course this has only been possible due to Huawei’s work with China Mobile. Huawei this year upgraded its technology offering and released a New Calling-Advanced solution. Chen Haiyong, President of CS & IMS Domain, Huawei Cloud Core Network Product Line, explained that a multi-modal communication function is introduced in the system architecture, starting a new era of “multi-modal communication”.

Huawei’s new solution provides real-time voice-driven avatar services. “Users can customise their own avatar and drive this avatar in real time through voice during the call,” explained Chen Haiyong. “The avatar’s lip movements will match exactly the caller’s voice perfectly. Various stylised content can be introduced, enabling carriers to build personalised calling experiences.”

Chen added “the New Calling-Advanced solution continuously upgrades the calling experience of individual and industry users, and supports operators to transform to content operation, and future evolve to multi-modal communication with intelligence added on. It greatly increases the value of operators’ call entry and brings huge business opportunities to the voice industry.”

China Mobile’s Sun Shiwei is particularly excited by the potential of the avatar technology. Looking ahead to service evolution in 2024, he said the operator will focus on real-time voice-driven avatars. “Besides showing avatars to each other, users can play with the avatar in real time through voice, making the calling more fun.”

Beyond consumer services
5GNC offers opportunities beyond just the consumer segment. China Mobile plans to launch intelligent interactive customer service applications, which could be widely used in government public services, finance, and other industries, significantly improving communication efficiency.

“In terms of service operation, we will carry out refined operations for vertical users and differentiate user groups, such as young people and elderly people, as well as user development and service operation in various industries,” commented Sun Shiwei. “For example, finance, e-commerce, and government services.”

“Our goal for 2024 is to bring in another 30 million New Calling users compared to 2023. At the same time, we will continue to expand the scale of video call users, with a target of more than 150 million. In this way, tens of millions of users can enjoy the brand-new call experience brought by 5G New Calling.”

Industry co-operation
Both China Mobile and Huawei agree that the success of 5GNC will be maximised by a global unified ecosystem.

China Mobile’s Sun Shiwei noted the operator will continue to develop more high-quality terminals, and promote the large-scale commercial development of native DC terminals. Secondly, the operator will focus on enhancing the quality of its services, and thirdly, ensure application innovation, with an objective to transform call services from communication tools to information services.

“In the future, China Mobile will continue to strengthen cooperation with standards organisations and partners in various fields, such as networks, chips, and terminals, continue to promote and expand the 5G New Calling ecosystem, improve the ecological value, and enable more users to enjoy the services, and share the industry value brought by 5G New Calling within all partners,” concluded Sun Shiwei.