Ugandan carrier enhances mobile Internet with Opera House deal

KAMPALA, UGANDA – MTN Uganda customers are now set for a better Internet browsing experience on their cell phones.

The mobile-phone giant has entered into an agreement with Norwegian software developer Opera Software that allows MTN to use Opera software on its client devices.

“It is a mini browser called Opera Mini that has been developed specifically for cell phones,” Erik van Venn, MTN Uganda chief commercial officer, explained in an interview. “As opposed to a normal browser, this is a proper browser for cell phones that has been developed for MTN.”

The formal launch of the mobile software will be announced in the next few weeks, van Venn added.

When surfing with normal PC browsers on mobile phones, users encounter problems with download speeds and image quality, said Kenneth Kiddu, MTN’s product development manager. “But now this browser will enable our customers to download content easily, especially with sites that are heavy. If you are to use the normal browsers, it will take a user a lot of time, but this will enhance the service and make life easy,” he said.

According to Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner, his company is strengthening its strategy to make the Web available to more people on any device from anywhere in the world. Africa has great growth potential in Web browsing, Tetzchner said, noting that his company and MTN share a vision of ushering in a new era of Internet connectivity across Africa.

The software, which is already available for download on GPRS- (General Packet Radio Service-) or Java-enabled phones for MTN customers in Uganda, is built on Opera’s industry-leading browser technology and is the world’s most popular mobile Web browser. According to Opera House’s latest mobile Web report, 15.8 million people use the software.

Opera Mini is cost-efficient and offers a great opportunity for MTN customers who don’t have desktop PCs, lack broadband access or are constantly on the move, van Venn said.

“The Web is an important part of life in Uganda. We want customers to access it conveniently,” he added. Mobile Internet is picking up in Uganda: According to figures from January-March 2008, there were 175,568 active mobile Internet users in the country.

Kiddu said that as technologies improve and bandwidth becomes less expensive, the market for mobile Internet will grow. “It takes time to have these complimentary services accepted on the market, but this will change once the technologies become cheaper,” Kiddu said.

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