VimpelCom has struck a deal with Microsoft and Nokia that will allow its customers to buy digital content from the Windows Phone store via their mobile accounts.
The operator says the cost of any application, game or music will either be deducted from a customer’s prepaid card or added to the monthly bill.
VimpelCom (Amsterdam, Netherlands) is the sixth-biggest operator in the world by customer numbers, and so the deal could provide a major boost for Microsoft (Seattle, USA) and Nokia (Helsinki, Finland), whose tie-up has struggled to make an impact in a smartphone market still dominated by Apple (Cupertino, USA) and Android devices.
It should also help VimpelCom to increase data revenues by making it easier for customers to conduct transactions.
The option of paying via the mobile account could hold particular appeal in a country where credit-card ownership is still relatively low.
VimpelCom has already agreed a similar arrangement with Google (Mountain View, USA) that allows customers to pay for content purchased from the Google Play Android store via their mobile accounts.
To enhance the attraction and usability of the service, a so-called ‘VimpelCom Shelf’ will include about 200 applications tailored to suit local tastes. VimpelCom Shelf will also allow customers to navigate easily through content in the Windows Phone store.
VimpelCom Shelf and the mobile accounts payment system are to be rolled out across VimpelCom’s global operations later this year.
Microsoft claims the Windows Phone ecosystem is expanding rapidly worldwide and that Windows Phone devices will become available in more than 70 countries over the next 12 months, providing support for 50 display languages.
It also says the Windows Phone store offers more than 125,000 apps and games in 191 countries.
“With the ‘VimpelCom Shelf’ we will bring tailored content to VimpelCom customers around the globe who use Windows Phone smartphones and will provide them with the most convenient way to access and pay for apps,” said Mikhail Gerchuk, VimpelCom’s chief commercial and strategy officer. “In many of our markets we will be the first operator to launch mobile account payments for the Windows Phone Store.”
Nokia says the deal marks an important step for the ecosystem while it continues to extend its line-up of popular Lumia devices across geographies and price bands.