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Mobile,Growth Markets

Opera Opens Up The Mobile Internet

Subscribers to VinaPhone, Vietnam’s second-largest mobile network, now have an easier way to get online – a one-day pass of unlimited mobile browsing (excluding downloads and video) for as little as VND2,000 (just under US$0.10).

VinaPhone devised the offering, which went on sale at the end of last month, in conjunction with Opera Software, the web browser maker that has been actively expanding in Asia after opening its first APAC hub, in Singapore, in June.

Opera develops software for a variety of internet-connected devices, from desktops to TVs, but is best known for its Opera Mini browser for mobile phones, used globally by around 240 million people each month.

Opera Mini is especially popular in developing economies thanks to inbuilt data compression technology which makes pages easier to load, reflects Opera’s Asia lead, Fabrizio Caruso.

Cheaper, quicker

“It’s much faster and much cheaper,” Caruso says, speaking in an interview with Media Business Asia.

“Even if you are on a very bad network, you can still have a good browsing experience.”

At the same time, Opera is bulwarking organic growth with a series of industry partnerships. These include deals with handset makers, who can pre-install the browser on internet-capable phones, as well as with 120 operators around the world.

These partnerships contribute one part of a diversified revenue model for Opera, which also includes commercial partnerships for search (via Google) and preinstalled bookmarks.

Advertising is also becoming an important part of the business, an area Caruso is keen to push in Asia after the company unveiled a dedicated subsidiary, Opera Mediaworks, to house its mobile advertising assets in February.

Opera’s operator offering, however, has evolved significantly over the past year.

Shortly after VinaPhone’s announcement, Philippines’ telco Sun Cellular unveiled its Browse On Opera service earlier this month, for 15 pesos (US$0.35) a day. Similar services are also available in India and Indonesia.

Improved experience

Opera provides networks with a suite of branded products too.

One, called Web Pass, allows operators to package up online access in terms of content as well as time, while simplifying the sign-up process.

The product has been taken up in India after making its regional debut with Digi in Malaysia in November last year.

“That is the next evolution of what we have done before, but improving the experience for the consumer,” Caruso says.

At the same time, the acquisition of Silicon Valley-based Skyfire Labs in February added two smartphone products to the toolkit, enabling Opera to extend its reach.

Skyfire Horizon is a toolbar that subscribers can customize, which can also include operator recommendations, promotions and advertising.

Another Skyfire product, Rocket Optimizer, helps spur mobile video viewing by boosting network capacity.

“We have a suite of products now for every need,” Caruso remarks.

“Our users consume more data and engage more than traditional users," he adds. "We can move them up the chain with our web plans.”

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