Opera aims to expand mobile reach in China

Opera announced a joint venture with China's Telling Telecom to develop a new mobile browser for the country's market

Opera Software has announced a deal to embed its Internet browser on mobile phones sold in China, a move that is meant to help grow the company's presence in the country's burgeoning mobile market.

Opera, the Norwegian company behind two popular mobile browsers, has established a joint venture with Chinese handset distributor Telling Telecom Development Co. The two partners will develop a customized mobile browser for China using Opera's technology. Telling Telecom will then install the mobile browser on handsets sold through its distribution network.

The joint venture could place Opera's mobile browser onto millions of handsets sold in China. Telling Telecom ships more than 30 million mobile phones annually and has 40,000 retail outlets in China. It also has an 18 percent share of the Chinese mobile phone distribution industry, according to Opera.

"China represents the largest mobile web opportunity on the planet," said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software, in a statement. "To reach the vast majority of that market, we are creating an entirely new product that suits the needs of Chinese consumers."

China currently has the world's largest Internet population at 457 million: About 303 million of those users access the Web via mobile phones, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Opera has already risen to become the leader of mobile Internet browsers, with a 21.26 percent share of the global market, according to StatCounter. The company's Opera Mini browser support more than 3,000 phone models.

But in China, the company's market share is at 2.49 percent, lagging far behind the dominant rival, UC Mobile, which has a 64.4 percent share. UC Mobile is a Chinese company that makes the UC Browser, which has been made available on more than 200 phone brands. Most of its users come from China.

UC Mobile has emerged as the leader because the company early on understood the Chinese market and could provide better localization of its browser, said Kevin Tong, an analyst with iResearch. "Other mobile browsers may have had Chinese versions, but their user interface or their lack of localization was not enough to attract Chinese users," he said.

"Opera will have to localize its product and this joint venture will provide that experience to make those improvements," Tong added.

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