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Operators unite to unleash global apps potential

Mobile players should be looking at sources of inspiration other than Apple for app stores

Twenty four operators, accounting for over three billion subscribers on Monday formed the Wholesale Applications Community, an alliance designed to build an open platform for delivering applications to all mobile phone users.

América Móvil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind are committed to creating the ecosystem, supported by LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The alliance plans to initially use both the JIL and OMTP BONDI requirements, evolving these standards into a common standard within the next 12 months.

Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media believes that the operators behind the inititiative are hoping to capture the mass market for mobile internet services. Apple and RIM are already dominating the high end of the smartphone market but this only accounts for about one in five mobile users in Europe or North America. If operators can bring out €100 devices with a good mobile internet experience they may be able to sell data plans to more low-end users.

”However, I do question whether such a large group of mobile operators will be able to achieve the level of cooperation and integration required to make this initiative a success,” said Newman. “Some of these operators (for example AT&T and Sprint) are fierce competitors and have always tried to find ways of differentiating themselves in order to win market share.”

There is also the issue of whether developers will lend their support to the initiative. They are more interested in developing apps for Apple and Android and have historically distrusted operators because of the unfavourable revenues share deals that have been on the table. A number of the developers that we have spoken to would rather operators keep out of the applications development community entirely.

Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst with Informa, added: “One of the biggest challenges facing mobile operators in the app-store space is competing with handset and OS players in global reach. The Wholesale Applications Community initiative unveiled today by the GSMA attempts to address this challenge but operators will need to move rapidly to enable the “single point of entry” for developers sought by the initiative if they are to stand any chance of regaining some of the ground they have lost on the mobile-content front to the likes of Apple and Google.

“There have been other well-intentioned GSMA initiatives to get operators to work together to enable global ecosystems for services that have bared little fruit. As well as struggling with global reach, operators struggle to compete in terms of agility and the brand “coolness” necessary to attract a wide pool of developer talent.”


5 comments

  1. marlon facey 15/02/2010 @ 6:49 pm

    It is truely sickening to see the lack of innovation from mobile operators. They love to jump on a band wagon and try to make money from “Me too!!” services.
    The horse has already left stable and APPLE is the horse in this regards. All the Value added profits has been made by Apple already. With the operators jumping into APP’s it will become a commodity service. The operators will be slitting each others thoughts to offer cheap app’s or they will just bundle it in with minutes.
    I would think this is the death nell for APP’s developers since the deveopment enviroments will become too fractured.

  2. iPad Developer 15/02/2010 @ 7:10 pm

    If they can achieve anything approaching a common standard in 12 months I’ll eat my iPhone… I give it 9 months before they can agree a date for their next meeting!
    They had two decades to provide a common standard but chose not to; now they should just get on with providing pipes.

    • David 15/02/2010 @ 10:41 pm

      Haven’t you heard of the Internet. It’s a thing computer scientists brought into being that telecoms engineers couldn’t.

  3. Asteway 16/02/2010 @ 3:20 pm

    I think the initiative is good, if it can make a standard out of the development environment, and stop fragmentation. In the same way the operators also should agree to push network sharing to reduce the mobile service pricing & and their carbon foot.

  4. CISSE MARIE 22/02/2010 @ 11:20 am

    Very good initiative

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