India's top two mobile firms, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications, both plan to launch online mobile applications stores, opening up a new revenue stream from add-on services such as music and social networking.
Bharti Airtel said on Tuesday it would provide more than 1,250 applications across 25 categories including games, books and social networking on its applications store. Reliance Communications said the first version of its applications store would go live for GSM customers by the end of February, and by the end of March an expanded version would be available to its CDMA customers as well. Globally, Apple Inc's App Store has proved extremely popular. Phone makers, operators and technology firms including Nokia, Research In Motion, Vodafone and Microsoft Corp have also sought a piece of the pie. In January, seventh-ranked Aircel, which is majority-owned by Malaysia's Maxis, was the first Indian operator to announce a mobile applications store, when it signed a deal with No. 2 software services firm Infosys Technologies.
India, the world's fastest-growing mobile market, is predominantly a voice-centric market, with just over 10 percent of mobile operators' revenue coming from data, but researcher Gartner expects data services revenue to grow faster in the next few years.