Summary:

The world’s top handset manufacturer has signed up for Telefónica’s carrier billing service, which will let customers buy apps and content through the Samsung app store and charge it to their phone bill.

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Samsung has agreed to let customers on Telefónica’s network charge their apps and content to their phone bill or take the payment out of prepaid credit, rather than having to use a credit card. The agreement covers apps, services and content bought through Samsung’s own app store, which runs on the Android and Bada platforms.

This is a big win for Spain-based Telefónica, which is trying to get as many partners as possible to plug into its BlueVia billing API. It’s previously managed to get Google, Facebook, Microsoft and BlackBerry to agree to play along, but Samsung is the first major phone manufacturer to sign up. It also happens to be the world’s top phone manufacturer, having shipped 70 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year.

Carrier billing makes it easier to sell smartphones to people, particularly in emerging markets, who lack a bank card. Telefónica has 315 million mobile customers around the world, and is particularly strong in Latin America. The fact that Google Play is already plugged into Telefónica’s billing API means that, without this deal, Samsung was risking its cardless Android customers finding it easier to buy through Google’s storefront than Samsung’s.

As Lee Epting, vice president of Samsung’s Media Solutions Centre Europe, said in a statement:

“Samsung is committed to ensuring that our customers have choice and convenience when purchasing content on our devices. Our partnership with Telefónica Digital allows us to deliver yet another easy and convenient purchasing experience to our Samsung Hub and Samsung Apps customers.”

The “direct-to-bill” option will roll out first to Telefónica’s O2 business in Germany, during the coming months, then to its other operating businesses in a phased deployment.

We’re going to be seeing more of these carrier billing arrangements in the future, and that’s a good thing for all concerned. Not only does it mean more apps and content will be sold, benefiting their producers, but it also means the telcos themselves aren’t shut out of the value chain.

And, if the carriers manage to be involved beyond the provision of basic data services, it may stop them complaining about returns on their network investments and trying to do heinous, net-neutrality-shredding things like charging content providers for their traffic. Everyone’s a winner.

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