Feature Article

February 04, 2014

Telefonica Turns LINE into a Carrier App

Few firms in the mobile communications business have been as bullish about opportunities to partner with over the top app providers than Telefónica.

So it is no surprise that Telefónica has come up with a way to create exclusiveness for an over the top messaging app, partnering with LINE Euro-Americas Corporation, owner and operator of the free call and messaging app, LINE.

The deal gives Telefónica exclusive rights to distribute LINE to Telefónica subscribers across key Telefónica Firefox OS markets, including Venezuela, Peru, Spain, Colombia, Uruguay, Brasil and Mexico.

The partnership combines Telefónica’s vast reach in Latin America and Europe with LINE’s rapidly growing popularity in these regions.

LINE has reached over 330 million registered users worldwide at the start of 2014 with growth of over 58 percent in the third quarter of 2013 alone.

Though the LINE application is available globally from the Firefox OS Marketplace, and therefore will be distributed “over the top,” in Venezuela, Peru, Spain, Colombia, Uruguay, Brasil and Mexico the app will be available only to Telefónica mobile subscribers.

At least in part, the move also is part of an effort by Telefónica to push the popularity of the Firefox operating system. The exclusive availability of LINE will provide app uniqueness for customers of Telefónica and users of Firefox devices.

Since June of 2013, Telefónica has launched Firefox OS in seven countries with several other carriers rolling out subsequent launches including Telenor, Deutsche Telekom and TIM.

The effort will be prodigious, as some major carriers, especially NTT Docomo, have said there is not room in the market for a third operating system. To be sure, even some forecasts made as recently as 2012 had expected greater traction for open source operating systems such as Bada.

But Bada’s backers have given up, placing their hopes on Tizen, which in recent days also is encountering trouble. Sprint, for example, joined the Tizen Association in May 2012, only to leave in 2013, a sign that Sprint saw diminished prospects.

Telefónica seems to have placed its hopes on Firefox. Orange also had hoped to distribute a Tizen smartphone, as did DoCoMo, but apparently has no current plans to do so.

The point is that it will be tough for any operating system with the possible exception of Windows Phone to pour enough resources into the adoption effort to gain low double-digits share, it appears.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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