Boku Now Powers Carrier Billing For Nearly All Of France

Here’s a significant bit of news that advances mobile operators’ master plan to become central players not just in provisioning data networks, but to have a hand in how people are using them to consume goods and services…

The mobile billing provider Boku has announced deals with two major French mobile operators, SFR and Bouygues Telecom, to enable a carrier billing service for mobile sites.

Coupled with Boku’s existing deal with France Telecom’s Orange, the company now offers carrier billing for virtually 100 percent of the French mobile market.

The service is part of a new mobile services tie-up between the two operators called Internet + Mobile, and it is based around the Boku product, which lets users make payments for goods by entering their mobile phone number and having the item charged directly to their bills. The service covers micropayments of up to €10 ($14.40), and seems for now to be mainly aimed at mobile web sites rather than apps.

Taken together, the three operators Bouygues, SFR and Orange cover almost 50 million users — nearly the whole of the French mobile market.

The promise of carrier billing is that it makes the process of buying goods and services on your mobile a little bit more convenient, and extends the addressable market to people who do not have a credit card and so have not been able to purchase mobile before now. (Other elements of the carrier billing landscape include point-of-sale payments, which are not covered by this deal.)

Indeed, one of the first users of the service is, MovieStarPlanet (pictured), a StarDoll-type of service aimed at young people — precisely the kind of audience that doesn’t have access to a credit card. MovieStarPlanet lets its young users create their own avatars to interact and put into animations and other applications, which they pay for with a virtual currency, Starcoins.

But, as with the carrier billing service announced by Vodafone earlier this week, the effectiveness of Boku will be heavily reliant on how many merchants and mobile publishers take up the billing option and incorporate it into their offerings.

Boku, which counts Andreessen Horowitz among its investors, says it now covers some three billion people with its payment services.