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On May 6, Belfast-based Aepona announced they had received a new $10 million round of funding led by the Blackberry Partners Fund (BPF).BPF is “is focused on investing in mobile applications… for the BlackBerry and other mobile platforms.”With the addition of Aepona, BPF are now actively invested in eight companies.A quick analysis of the portfolio, one can see how RIM could potentially benefit from the success of these companies, but there is something a little different about Aepona.

Aepona is the industry pioneer in “Network as a Service” (NaaS) platforms.Aepona’s product is called the Universal Service Platform (USP) and is designed to give operators the ability to offer key network APIs (billing, location, messaging) to third party app developers quickly and easily. The platform normalizes MNO specific APIs into web based APIs, which means app developers can in theory write to Aepona’s single set of APIs and reach Aepona’s multiple MNO customers.The company recently acquired multi-channel payments and settlement specialist Valista, and is the technology partner providing a standardized version of USP for the GSM Association’s OneAPI initiative.

From a purely speculative perspective, what is compelling about the Aepona investment by BPF is the potential use of the Universal Service Platform by RIM.

RIM seems keen to deepen and expand their ties with their MNO partners. One way they have done that is to work hard to incorporate carrier billing into AppWorld or even potentially help establish carrier-branded Blackberry App Stores.If RIM were to become a customer of Aepona’s USP, it would create a win/win for RIM and their MNO partners.For RIM, they would be able to offer not only device APIs to app developers, but network APIs as well.For MNOs, they would get to participate directly in app revenue share for Blackberry apps, and the value of those apps to consumers would in theory be much higher because of the deep device and network integration potential.

If that weren’t enough, consider this – Aepona’s platform is currently being marketed to enterprise customers as a way to easily extend and enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings with NaaS.As RIM’s great strength is with the business user, enterprise-specific tools such as this would make the bond with enterprise users even stronger.