Vodafone Opens the Door to Mobile Apps

David Murphy

Vodafone says it will stimulate a new generation of mobile Internet applications by providing Internet service developers with a single point of access to its global customer base. Developers will only need to create Internet applications once in order to reach millions of Vodafone customers on any device, and will be able to charge for it directly through Vodafones billing system. This, the company says, will provide Internet content partners, such as the media or game developers, with a cost-efficient and effective micro-payments system to reach all customers on mobile devices.
Vodafone will also provide partners and developers with customer-controlled access to other network capabilities, such as location awareness, enabling them to create even more innovative mobile Internet services and applications. The move will be accompanied by a framework to provide customers with transparency and control over how their information is accessed and used.
The scale of the initiative will provide partners and developers with an unparalleled opportunity to increase their revenues from the mobile Internet, while delivering services to Vodafones 289 million customers. Vodafone will also benefit from any uplift in sales under a revenue-share model.
According to Vodafone, the benefits to third-party developers and Internet companies include:

  • A single point of access to millions of Vodafone customers across the globe

  • Faster time to market for new products and services across several operating systems and handsets

  • Enhanced revenue stream opportunities

  • Simplified micro-payments for services through the use of Vodafones existing billing systems

 The benefits to customers include:

  • A greater selection of more compelling Internet applications and services

  • More convenience and greater flexibility in paying for new services

  • A simpler and more intuitive mobile Internet experience

  • Consistent quality of service across the entire Vodafone footprint

Vodafone will enable developers to use its direct billing capabilities to enable customers to pay for services wirelessly through their existing Vodafone pre- and post-paid accounts, rather than having to input sensitive credit card data into multiple application stores. Vodafone says this should give customers a convenient and highly secure payment option for the different services on offer, as well as encouraging greater take-up.
By giving developers access to location awareness capabilities, Vodafone believes it will enable a new generation of highly personalised user-activated and controlled services and applications that are tailored to meet the customers immediate requirements.
Vodafone is making the enhancements through the creation of a set of network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which will enable developers to build capabilities such as direct billing and location awareness into their services.
The APIs, which provide a link between the applications and the Vodafone network capabilities, will work across the entire Vodafone footprint, thanks to a new layer of management technology based on Service Oriented Architecture.
Vodafone will start to offer access to selected network enablers through the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) initiative, which is designed to help developers create useful widgets for a combined audience of up to 1 billion customers (across the four JIL partner networks). JIL is due to release a website and a Software Developer Kit in the summer. Vodafone says it is also exploring a range of other ways to expose its network enablers to the broadest possible audience.
Vodafone is making these changes to make it easier for third parties to develop attractive new services, as well as bill and support our customers through our network capabilities in all markets, says Vodafone CEO, Vittorio Colao. By giving them simple access to our global customer base and network assets, such as direct billing and location awareness, we will help them to make more money, while providing our customers with the innovative services that they want.