IDG News Service’s Elizabeth Montalbano quotes Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner as saying in “a recent interview” that “We are working … to provide an Opera Mini-based solution with a major operator in the U.S.,”. The report goes on to say that the deal will be bigger than Opera’s recent partnership with Virgin Mobile, that the browser may not carry the Opera branding and that the deal involves Motricity, which provides content delivery services, mobile portals and/or storefronts to all four major U.S. carriers; Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Which carrier will it be? That’s hard to say, my initial thought was Sprint which did a smaller deal with Opera to bundle Mini with the Samsung Instinct S30. And Virgin Mobile U.S.A., which is a joint venture of Sprint and the Virgin Group, is offering Mini as a free download on eight handsets. But Sprint and Virgin call it Opera Mini rather than re-branding. I think they would do the same with a wider distribution deal.
Verizon is a possibility, there is a BREW version of Opera Mini which is used by India’s Tata. Or T-Mobile which has the lowest data APRU of the four carriers and already bundles Opera Mini with a number of handsets in several European markets. But my money goes with AT&T for several reasons.
1.) AT&T’s 3G data network is being stretched to the breaking point by the iPhone. The operator recently dropped unlimited data packages for prepaid users and reportedly has a tiered access system model with iPhones getting the highest priority, followed by contract customers, then prepaid users. Opera Mini greatly reduces bandwidth use and delivers a decent browsing experience even on slow connections. It would allow AT&T to handle more data users without increasing bandwidth.
2) AT&T is the only one of four major carriers that does not default to transcoding web content for feature phone users. Opera Mini offers the claimed advantages of transcoding (reduced bandwidth and the “full” web on basic phones) while providing much better rendering and a superior overall user experience compared to any transcoder. Improving the browsing experience on feature phones would increase data package adoption (and revenue) while keeping bandwidth demands down.
I’m a big user and fan of Opera Mini and I’d love to see it get wider adoption in the U.S.. I believe that the first U.S. carrier to adopt it will gain a considerable competitive advantage. But which one will it be? Please share your thoughts in a comment.