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Summary:

Customers buying Telefonica Firefox OS handsets in Spain, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico will get exclusive access to the platform’s Line app, a competitor to the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Telefonica building Madrid

Telefonica has struck a deal with the makers of Line to exclusively offer the messaging app on Firefox OS handsets in Latin America and Spain.

According to a Tuesday statement from the companies, both Telefonica and Line will put “significant marketing” into the offer. For now, the deal covers Telefonica subscribers in Spain, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico, but further markets should be announced soon.

“By partnering with Telefonica we are underscoring our commitment to our expanding European and Latin American customer base,” Line Euro-Americas CEO Jeanie Han said in a statement. “At Line, we realize the importance of family and friends in Hispanic culture and are very pleased to be able to offer our users expressive sticker messages, convenient voice and video calls, and games to better engage with those closest to them.”

The companies also said special offers would be “presented via Official Line Accounts in select markets.”

Line is Japan’s big contender in the current messaging wars. The firm says it’s the top free app in 60 countries and it has over 300 million registered users worldwide. However, it’s still behind WhatsApp, which has 400 million active monthly users, as well as Facebook Messenger and China’s WeChat.

We still haven’t seen sales figures for Firefox OS, a new operating system that carriers such as Telefonica are pushing hard, particularly in emerging markets – they want it to become a viable alternative to low-end Android phones. If the HTML5-based devices are selling, this Telefonica arrangement could be good business for Line (particularly as WhatsApp isn’t available on Firefox OS).

For Telefonica, this deal follows the collapse last August of the carrier’s own WhatsApp rival, Tu Me. As many operators are learning (see also, Deutsche Telekom and Path), it’s a lot simpler to partner with an existing “over the top” app-maker than to try develop new rivals to such services in-house.