Opera is bypassing handset manufacturers and going straight to U.S. wireless carries in an attempt to further the distribution of its popular mobile web browser. The move isn’t completely new for Opera Software. In fact, Opera currently has license agreements with European carriers Vodafone and T-Mobile. Through these agreements, the Opera browser is placed on the carrier’s mobile phones.
An Opera spokesperson revealed Opera’s plans to announce several U.S. carrier deals at the upcoming CTIA Wireless conference next month. The spokesperson didn’t reveal the names of specific carriers, but considering Opera tends to work with large, tier-one operators, we’d say chances are good the announcement will involve at least one of the four major U.S. carriers (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile).
Opera has enjoyed great success with its mobile web browser. To date, more than 20 million people have downloaded and used the Opera browser. This upcoming announcement marks a strategy shift for Opera. The company has traditionally allied itself with cell phone makers to get its mobile browser in front of consumers. Opera has current agreements with Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and Sony Ericsson. Considering wireless operators have greater influence over the U.S. cell phone market than manufacturers, this shift in strategy is a wise move for Opera to further its presence. Even after the announcement, we would expect Opera to continue partnering with manufacturers as well as carriers.
Carriers can partner with Opera in two ways: They can license its browser technology or they can distribute the browser to phones the carrier currently supports. Both scenarios are profitable for Opera. Regardless of which carriers end up partnering with Opera in April, this will be a big step for both Opera and customers with feature phones who receive the browser.