China Telecom followed in the footsteps of domestic rivals China Mobile and China Unicom by launching an OTT messaging app, through a joint venture with Chinese internet company NetEase.
Jie Yang, president and COO of the operator said the partnership is “a crucial step in China Telecom’s strategic transformation” and demonstrates its commitment to mobile internet development.
NetEase will provide full support for the development of the app.
YiChat offers users the ability to send free text and voice messages to any mobile phone or fixed line service, without the need for the app to be installed on receiving devices.
The app also features environmental noise reduction and photo messaging, along with a range of original sticker and emoticon designs — similar to those offered by APAC messaging app rival LINE. YiChat users can also benefit from additional free data promotional packages from China Telecom.
Chinese number-two China Unicom formed a partnership with Tencent in July to launch a SIM card for the Weixin OTT messaging app. The SIM went on sale in Guangdong province on 8 August with a data package for WeChat and related services.
More than 700,000 SIM cards for the Weixin Woka service were reportedly pre-ordered in the first 24 hours of availability.
The world’s largest operator China Mobile meanwhile launched Jego in June, giving users the ability to communicate with each other using text and voice, and allowing those outside China to call and text Chinese numbers for free.
OTT messaging apps are generating huge user numbers with WhatsApp recently claiming it passed 300 million monthly active users while LINE stated that it’s aiming for the same milestone by the end of this year.
Tencent recently claimed that Weixin in China and its foreign counterpart WeChat have 236 million active users per month combined, with more than 100 million users coming from outside China.