Telenor has joined Telefónica's BlueVia platform as it attempts to derive revenue from a range of new services, but is slightly worried it will fail if others don’t follow suit.
BlueVia is Telefónica's year-old global developer platform designed to enable developers to take apps, webs services and other ideas to market.
BlueVia has network APIs in a number of areas but, as a result of this partnership, will focus on mobile payments initially.
The two operators said they share the belief that the ease and convenience of operator billing payments will help increase downloads of paid mobile content, such as apps.
"Customers show a growing preference for charging payments on the phone bill rather than to credit cards or PayPal,” said Rolv-Erik Spilling, SVP and deputy head of Telenor Digital Services.
“Operator billing thus enables developers to more easily monetize on their products. It's important for us to offer this as a solution in as many channels as possible."
Direct operator billing is very much en vogue – last month vendor MACH announced that all of the UK’s major mobile operators are rolling out its solution.
Spilling told European Communications that MACH could be seen as a competitor for the BlueVia initiative, but equally it relies on Telefónica and Telenor to reach end users through their operating units.
The two operators said they will work together to roll out the platform across their mobile customer bases.
Spilling said Telenor customers in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Hungary would get the service “during the next two quarters”, but roll out in non-EU markets is less certain and “more depends on local regulation”.
Incidentally, the partnership between Telenor and Telefónica deepens the relationship of perhaps the two most publically innovative operators in Europe today.
It is no accident that both launched new digital business units last year in an attempt to change their culture and drive innovative services.
"Telenor joins the BlueVia platform as an equal partner, and we extend an invitation to other global telcos to join us in this new way of working together," said Spilling.
“We want our fellow telcos to understand the benefits of joining BlueVia in helping to monetize assets while simultaneously making it easier for customers to purchase content and applications."
Spilling told European Communications that an inability to attract other operators could “partly” equate to the initiative being a failure.
However, he said the opposite could equally be true.
“More clusters like BlueVia [might emerge] and they might co-exist without really hampering, maybe in fact stimulating, the success of the BlueVia,” he said.
Head of BlueVia Jose Valles added that his aim has been to build “a pure global ecosystem” by gaining scale – ie, not sticking to Telefónica's footprint – and “experimenting fast” on APIs.
“Telenor is leading the industry in embracing this vision. We are glad to work with them, initially in m-payments, but also in exploring other innovative APIs aimed at different areas of the market," he said.
Moving forward, Spilling said they intended to look into SMS/MMS, voice and data connect, but also “how to utilize common processes to reach out to the content provider and developer communities”.
However, it is worth pointing out that there seems much more consensus around m-payments than other areas; as European Communications discovered last week, Telenor and Telefónica do not agree on the role they should play in the apps space, for example.
Ultimately, Spilling said the biggest challege was maintaining focus on the initial service.
“We have to get the right markets to connect to the right partners for direct operator billing and then grow the business, and thereby the partnership, step-by-step,” he said.