China Mobile is working with telecoms equipment and handset vendor ZTE to develop a messaging app using the emerging Rich Communication Services (RCS) platform.

China’s largest mobile operator, with more than 800 million connections, is expected to launch a real-time messaging app later in the year, which would in theory allow it to win back users and traffic from Tencent’s WeChat service, the most popular messaging service in China.

RCS is a platform developed by the GSMA that enables the delivery of voice, SMS, instant messages, live video and file sharing across various devices.

The South China Morning Post quoted ZTE VP Fang Hui as saying: “This is the trump card China Mobile has in hand to compete with over-the-top services.”

He said the service quality of RCS will be more reliable than OTT, so things like lost messages won’t be a problem because the application is on the operator’s own network.

China Mobile is conducting tests among employees. The second phase of the project will begin in the second half of the year, Fang said.

However, it will be difficult for operators to challenge WeChat because users don’t need two instant messaging platforms, PoXiang Ligang, the founder of telecoms portal CCTime, told the Post. “RCS has to prove that it has more value than WeChat. If it is roughly the same service, then it is just a follower.”