SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc has struck new deals to offer mobile phone Web services through nine network operators across Asia, bolstering its increasing lead in the fastest growing regional market for mobile services by users.
The Silicon Valley-based Internet company also said on Tuesday that it was introducing a mobile service called Yahoo Go in traditional Chinese in Taiwan. These deals build on six earlier Asian carrier partnerships announced in June.
“Those 16 deals will give us roughly 40 percent coverage of all subscribers in those countries,” Yahoo’s top mobile executive, Marco Boerries, said in a phone interview.
Yahoo is racing to attract subscribers to Internet services delivered via mobile phones rather than computer browsers as rival Google Inc unveiled a plans to offer software to create a new class of Internet-ready phones.
Telecom carriers and Internet service providers are looking to capture a chunk of a market that research firm Gartner Inc sees generating advertising sales of $12.8 billion by 2011.
Boerries said there were more deals coming. “We have a clear goal to lead the market. The goal is to exceed 50 percent.”
In Japan and China, Yahoo operates through joint ventures that handle all deal-making with mobile operators, Boerries said. It is working with China’s Alibaba.com Corp on deals with carriers in the world’s biggest mobile market.
Yahoo Japan is majority-owned by Softbank, the country’s No. 3 mobile operator. Yahoo Web services also are offered via No. 1 carrier NTT DoCoMo via a non-exclusive deal.
The Yahoo partnership deals to be unveiled on Tuesday at an industry trade fair in Macau include three Indian carriers: Aircel Ltd, BPL Mobile and BSNL; two Malaysian carriers: DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd and PT Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk two Indonesian carriers: Hutch 3 and PT Indosat Tbk, along with PCCW Mobile HK Ltd of Hong Kong and Starhub Ltd of Singapore.
Together with six earlier Asian partnerships set in June, Yahoo now has exclusive or preferred deals to have its Internet services featured on four of India’s top eight carriers; all of Indonesia’s top four carriers; Malaysia’s No. 1 and No. 3 carriers; and the No. 2 and 3 carriers in Hong Kong.
Since introducing OneSearch, its Internet service for mobile phones, Yahoo has struck deals with 20 mobile operators worldwide. Its broadest deal, with Telefonica SA of Spain, covers up to 100 million phone subscribers in several European and Latin American markets.
Other than the Taiwan deal, the Asian partnerships call for carriers to feature Yahoo’s mobile search service, OneSearch.
OneSearch lets users search the Web on the first screen they call up, in contrast to browsers designed for computer users that force phone users to navigate through several screens of links to locate the Web information they want.
This Yahoo service was first introduced in the United States earlier this year. It makes mobile Web search faster and more relevant by providing links to local news, financial data, weather conditions, Flickr photos, and other Web sites.
Hours earlier, Yahoo said it had begun offering a similar set of localized Internet services in Spanish or Portuguese to consumers in Latin America’s three largest markets -- Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
In recent weeks, Yahoo also has quietly begun offering Web search via SMS text messaging in Britain, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain and the United States.
These direct-to-consumer services set the stage for Yahoo to strike deals with the region’s mobile phone carriers to feature Yahoo mobile services on phones they offer subscribers, vastly expanding the Internet company’s potential audience.
Editing by Louise Heavens