Opera Mini slims smartphone data streams

Opera Mini web-browsing software for smartphones has become an antidote for congested telecom networks and carrier bills that rise along with the amount of data streamed to handsets.

As the popularity of smartphones and tablets continues to surge and telecom carriers shy away from all-you-can-eat wireless data plans, Opera is wooing users with technology that minimizes bytes of data streamed over the air.

Opera Mini was the world's most popular mobile phone browser program in June with just shy of 23 percent of the market, according to figures from industry tracker StatCounter.

Nokia and Android browsers were nearly tied for second place, with 17.66 percent and 17.25 percent respectively, StatCounter reported.

Opera Mini, made by Norway-based Opera Software, boasted more than 120 million users with devices ranging from simple feature phones to sophisticated table computers.

"We actually minimize the amount of over the air network usage," Opera executive vice president of consumer mobile Mahi de Silva told AFP.

"We definitely think we can get more mileage for the user," he added.

Opera Mini technology shrinks the amount of data necessary to stream to wireless gadgets and then compresses the information it does send to economize on time and bandwidth, explained de Silva.

Opera Mini claimed to cut the amount of data streamed by as much as 90 percent while delivering the information being sought by wireless gadget users.

"You have the economical equation," de Silva said. "And the fact that your browser works; you can get to and browse data in places where networks are congested."

Virgin Mobile plans to begin throttling streaming speeds for data on plans that let people pay fixed prices to stream unlimited amounts of digital data to mobile phones.

The move by Virgin raised expectations that parent company Sprint would follow suit with was to curb rampant data streaming to mobile devices.

Last week, the leading provider of service for smartphones in the United States became the latest carrier to drop all-you-can-eat plans completely.

Verizon Wireless joined AT&T and T-Mobile USA in a shift away from unlimited data plans.

As modern lifestyles increasing involved using wireless gadgets to access videos, pictures, maps, and other data on the internet, companies handling that traffic are asking people to pay monthly based on quantity.

The trend toward metering wireless data use also comes as US carriers invest in new-generation networks that promise huge advances in data speeds.

"Their bandwidth is being consumed, saturated, and that is why they are moving away from all-you-can-eat plans," de Silva said of telecom carriers.

Opera Mini software is available free to gadget users. Opera technology is also licensed to device makers and carriers.

Operators in Russia and Indonesia market discounted Opera data plans based on the premise that the browser takes pressure off networks.

"We are minimizing the amonts of bits and bytes on the wire," de Silva said. gc/mk

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