Idea Cellular and Opera Software have signed a deal to offer a customized Opera Mini mobile web browser to its subscribers across India. A co-branded version of the browser will be availble for Idea subscribers by the end of March 2012. Opera had earlier inked a similar deal with Vodafone to push its browser in India, South Africa, Turkey, Tanzania and Egypt. It had also signed deals with Tata Indicom and MTS.

So how do these deals work in favour of telcos? Opera Mini significantly reduces data consumption costs since it claims to compress data by up to 90 percent, making it ideal for low bandwidth networks, or in places where data costs are high. So telcos such as Idea, benefit from increased data consumption, since subscribers who were not data customers earlier, start using the browser on the premise that data costs would not burn a whole in their pockets. These new users get included among subscribers contributing to data revenue. For the quarter ended 30th September 2011, Vodafone had reported 4.4 million monthly active Opera Mini users on its network out of 27.5 million data customers.  Secondly, we believe that a co-branded browser would also offer the operator’s bookmarks and links through its speed dial buttons. Interestingly, the Opera Mini browser we downloaded on an Android phone through the Android Market, sports Airtel’s links on speed dial.

How does Opera monetize? Opera has deals with search providers like Google, wherein it generates usage by making it the default search engine for the browser. By being a means of access for service providers (search engines and content companies), browsers are able to monetize their free-to-download offerings. Opera also offers deals on speed dial buttons. It had inked a deal with Hungama and Buongiorno for a placement. Although Opera had declined to comment on individual deals, but had indicated that there are various models for such deals including a per month type of payment and per user type, but differs from deal to deal. At the time of writing this post, the browser’s speed dial features Cricbuzz, Vuclip, bfish, Gmail and Google News.

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