This morning, web browser maker Opera announced a new way for mobile operators to offer web access to subscribers who don’t have a data plan. The service, called “Opera Web Pass,” will instead allow subscribers to purchase temporary web access for an hour or a day, or even just purchase access to a particular online service like Facebook or Google+.
Typically, smartphone subscribers who can’t afford the hefty cost of a mobile data plan only have a couple of options – either they can forgo a smartphone altogether, or they can purchase a prepaid or pay-as-you go device at a lower cost. But Opera’s Web Pass solution would potentially allow these same customers to access the web as need be on any phone capable of running Opera’s web browser application, Opera Mini.
However, because the solution requires Opera to have a deal with the carrier in advance, Web Pass isn’t available for everyone. The company is kicking off its launch with DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd in Malaysia, which will become the first mobile operator to offer the option to customers. DiGi and Opera both jointly developed and tested the product in advance of today’s launch, and Opera expects more operators to come on board. Likely, the software will be initially targeted towards operators in developing markets where data plans are not the norm.
For operators, they have the benefit of being able to control the price points for the data subscriptions, the packaging and the messaging found on the landing page the users will see. In DiGi’s deployment, interested customers can download a special, co-branded version of the Opera Mini web browser or text “Opera” to a given shortcode (“2000″).
The system doesn’t require heavy integration efforts on the operator’s side, as it supports third-party billing, header forwarding and Opera Mini zero rating, so the operator can quickly deploy the solution for their customers using low-end devices and feature phones. It also uses Opera’s data compression technologies, to reduce data costs even further. The system works on Java, Android, Symbian/S60 devices, and BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Mobile.
Opera has over 100 operator partners worldwide and over 200 million users of its mobile software on a monthly basis.