Wikipedia Gets Backing From Mobile Phone Operator Orange

The Wikimedia Foundation has signed a deal with French operator Orange to bring online encyclopedia Wikipedia to mobile phone users in France, the U.K., Spain and Poland.

The deal between Wikimedia and Orange includes a model for revenue sharing, but Orange isn't providing any details of how it works or the sums involved, according to a spokeswoman at the operator.

At first, the partnership will give Orange subscribers access to co-branded encyclopedia content, according to a statement from Orange. This includes specific channels and links to Wikipedia information on Orange's mobile portals, and mobile widgets for access to Wikipedia content directly the mobile phone, it said.

In general, the move to the mobile phone could open the door for more revenue opportunities for Web 2.0 brands, according to Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS Insight. There is a bigger opportunity to understand the customer in the mobile space, and then monetize that via more relevant and targeted advertising, he said.

The deal also reflects how carriers are trying to differentiate themselves through partnerships with Web 2.0 companies, according to Pescatore.

Orange wants the best Internet content on their phones, and the company is adding Wikipedia to a partner list that already includes Facebook and MySpace, according to the Orange spokeswoman.

Ideally, users will be interested in the mobile versions of well-known sites, therefore increasing data traffic for the operators, Jessica Ekholm, principal research analyst at Gartner, said via e-mail.

Last week Orange also extended its partnership with mobile-phone maker Nokia, which will result in a co-branded mobile e-mail service called Nokia Messaging by Orange. It will be launched in the U.K. in July. Plans for France and Spain are also in place, but no dates have been set, the Orange spokeswoman said.

If operators don't sign deals with popular brands they run the risk of users bypassing them and going the straight to the Web sites via browsers. In such cases, the operators would miss revenue opportunities related to, for example, advertising, according to Pescatore.

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