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Uninor To Bring Operator Billing, Curated Local Apps To Android Market

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Telenor, the Norway based telcom company which owns a  67.25% stake in Indian Telco JV, Uninor, has announced that it will bring operator billing and locally relevant apps on the Android Market to India in 2012. The announcement follows Telenor’s global agreement with Google by virtue of which, it will offer a store-in-store app marketplace within the Android Market. The deal covers Telenor’s all eleven markets and the initial launch will be in the first quarter 2012 in Thailand, Malaysia, Hungary, Sweden and Denmark. Telenor’s remaining global markets  including India, Bangladesh, Serbia, Montenegro and Norwaywill be able to access the upgraded Android experience later in 2012.

According to the company, an editorial team in each market will be responsible for selecting and presenting up to 50 apps with high local relevance. Operator billing will allow Telenor’s Android users to pay for apps, via prepaid or postpaid subscription.  To access the marketplace, users will need to select the Telenor (or local subsidiary) tile on the front page of the Android market.

Android operator billing: Operator billing on the Android Market is so far available only in select markets including on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the US, SoftBank, KDDI, and NTT DOCOMO in Japan, SK Telecom and KT Corporation in South Korea and Vodafone in Europe. However, markets like India, where credit card penetration is low have not been covered. Perhaps, the move will see a rise in the purchase of paid apps on Android, however, Uninor’s customer base is small compared to big companies like Airtel and Vodafone.

Operator App Store or Curated Apps Section: Google also offers store-within-store sections for handset makers such as Sony Ericsson to offer its own apps. It appears this will be the first time that an operator will deploy its own app selection, counting out customized apps made by US and European carriers for their customers on devices sold through their own channel. Integration with the Android Market will be an advantage for Telenor/Uninor, and it appears that the section will focus mainly on curation. So there might be no revenue sharing between the developer and the operator.

In a way, Vodafone through its recently launched App Store will compete with this solution, since it offers paid Android apps through the on-deck mobile web portal. But there are more steps involved in downloading and installing these apps and installation through non-market sources have to be enabled.

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