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Telefónica and Telenor give cross-operator APIs another shot with BlueVia payments

Developers never picked up on previous attempts such as WAC, but two of the largest operators are giving it another try. The first API in their shared plan covers mobile app billing, while another will tackle 'communications'.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The operator groups Telefónica and Telenor, which have a combined reach of more than 400 million customers, have banded together in an attempt to seize control of mobile app payments.


Spain-based O2 owner Telefónica has a platform called BlueVia that gives developers application programming interfaces (APIs) for plugging network functionality, such as text-messaging, into their apps. On Wednesday, Norway's Telenor said it would be contributing its own APIs to the same platform, so developers can address both operators' customers in the same code.

Although other functionality will follow, the two carrier groups will initially focus their BlueVia efforts on the area of mobile payments, in particular payments for apps and for in-app content purchases. This would help them regain control of payment processes that are these days mostly handled by Google and Apple.

"Telenor joins the BlueVia platform as an equal partner, and we extend an invitation to other global telcos to join us in this new way of working together," Telenor Digital Services deputy chief Rolv-Erik Spilling said in a statement. "We want our fellow telcos to understand the benefits of joining BlueVia in helping to monetise assets while simultaneously making it easier for customers to purchase content and applications."

Will people use it this time round?

Spilling claimed people prefer to pay for apps and content through their mobile bill, rather than through a credit card or PayPal. Whether or not this rings true depends largely on the market in question — in developing markets, where credit cards are relatively rare, it is certainly easier for people to pay for such things through prepaid credit.

"We want our fellow telcos to understand the benefits of joining BlueVia in helping to monetise assets" — Rolv-Erik Spilling, Telenor

BlueVia head Jose Valles told ZDNet that the next functionality will have to do with "communications". This suggests that developers may get to plug into Telefónica 's TU Me free VoIP service, which is available to any iOS or Android user regardless of their operator.

Cross-operator API attempts have a patchy history. The most recent of these attempts, the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) collapsed in July, with its APIs being hived off to Apigee.

The most prominent of those APIs was for payments, and a wide variety of operators used it — including Telefónica and Telenor. However, the API never caught on with developers, so it remained largely unused in apps.

Asked whether it would be tricky to get developers on board this time round, Valles said: "I'm not going to talk to developers. I'm going to talk to ecosystems."

ZDNet's Karen Friar contributed to this report.

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