Operators Move to Address App Fragmentation

24 telecommunications operators have formed the Wholesale Applications Community, an alliance to build an open platform that delivers applications to all mobile phone users. The move is designed to address the app industrys fragmentation problem, and challenge Apples dominance in the sector.
Amrica Mvil, 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, Telefnica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind say they are committed to create an ecosystem for the development and distribution of mobile and Internet applications, irrespective of device or technology.
Together, these operators have access to over three billion customers around the world. The GSM Assocation (GSMA) and three of the world's largest device manufacturers LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are also supporting the initiative.
The Wholesale Applications Community aims to unite a fragmented marketplace and create an open industry platform that benefits everybody from applications developers and network operators to mobile phone users themselves.
The alliance's stated goal is to create a wholesale applications ecosystem that, from day one, will establish a simple route to market for developers to deliver the latest innovative applications and services to the widest possible base of customers around the world. In the immediate future, the alliance will seek to unite members' developer communities and create a single, harmonised point of entry to make it easy for developers to join.
“The GSMA is fully supportive the Wholesale Applications Community, which will build a new, open ecosystem to spur the creation of applications that can be used regardless of device, operating system or operator,” says GSMA CEO, Rob Conway. “This approach is completely in line with the principles of the GSMA, and in fact leverages the work we have already undertaken on open network APIs (OneAPI). This is tremendously exciting news for our industry and will serve to catalyse the development of a range of innovative cross-device, cross-operator applications.”
Jonathan Arber, Senior Research Analyst at independent analyst house, IDC, says: Developers want to meet the largest possible addressable market, as efficiently and painlessly as possible, and the Wholesale Applications Community initiative can meet these criteria by providing a simple, single point of access to a large number of operator storefronts. The initiative should also help to drive uptake of existing, open standards among developers, operators and manufacturers, thereby reducing fragmentation and benefiting the whole industry.”
Andrew Bud, Global Chair of the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), is also excited by the news. He says:
“MEF's members are very optimistic about apps, and this will be demonstrated in MEF's soon-to-be-released annual Business Confidence Index that predicts that apps will make up over 20% of total mobile media revenues in 2010. But fragmentation in apps platforms is an important factor limiting growth and competition, so this initiative is welcomed by the mobile media industry. MEF has been working on network enablers, and this new initiative focusing on platforms will address the other aspect of the problem, moving the industry further forward.”
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. Ultimately, the companies involved will collectively work with the W3C for a common standard based on a converged solution to ensure that developers can create applications that port across mobile device platforms, and in the future between fixed and mobile devices.
The alliance will serve as one point of contact for the industry and is open to all relevant parties from telecommunications operators and device manufacturers to internet service providers and application software developers. Theres more information here.