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Twitter & Airtel Ink Exclusive SMS Deal In India; Why Exclusive?


Update: I tried out the service: messages are published on Twitter, and are delivered from those twitters, whose device updates you have subscribed to. Within five-10 minutes of subscribing, I received the first batch of 5 messages of twitter status updates. And then I promptly unsubscribed.

Update: So while the deal is exclusive, Twitter apparently hasn’t been too unkind to its users in India. According to Airtels twitter page, the exclusivity period extends only to 4 weeks, after which other telcos will also be able to provide Twitter SMS to their subscribers: “This period of exclusivity is something that we want to take advantage of and make sure that Brand Airtel can own the property Twitter in consumer mind space.” A list of keywords is available here. There’s no application mentioned for receiving SMS’. (Hat tip for link: kgenextreme)

Earlier: India’s largest telco Bharti Airtel has inked an exclusive deal to power Twitter on SMS in India, but for Airtel subscribers only, reports the Times of India. Users will be able to receive SMS’ from people they follow, and update their status or send direct messages via a short code – 53000. At present, Twitter is accessible via the mobile Web. All messages sent to the shortcode 53000 will be charged at Re 1 per SMS, and interestingly enough, all messages recieved from 53000 will be free of cost. They do appear to have got the pricing right.

A couple of things to note here: firstly the ToI story mentions an application for receiving SMS’ called TweetSMS. That sounds like an odd deployment – why would anyone need an application for receiving SMS’ from Twitter? Secondly, it mentions that the “Tweet that you post goes out to the entire community of listed Tweeters on the Airtel network.” That’s unusual…even unlikely. We’ve requested Airtel to clarify on these statements, and will update when we have a specific response.


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Twitter used to provide SMS updates in India, but eventually stopped. Perhaps the cost of SMS updates might have been an issue, but the choice of providing SMS updates exclusively to one telecom operator is a very strange one, and not a good strategy from Twitters perspective.

The term of exclusivity hasn’t been disclosed, but I do feel Twitter would have served its users better by trying to ink deals with all telecom operators. Remember that Facebook had also tied up with Tata Indicom, but eventually launched a long code based service 92FACEBOOK in order to make the service accessible to all. Airtel, on the other hand, will probably use this for branding, and as a differentiator.

Issues With Social Network Updates On SMS

I follow 642 twitter users: every time I log in, there’s something interesting for me to read, whether via twitter updates, conversations between friends or those I’m following or just news that has been linked to. Even if I log in after a five-10 minute gap, there’s a completely new set of updates for me to scan – thus, I end up logging in whenever I have a few minutes free, over 30-40 times a day (probably more).

If I were to receive updates from the people I follow via SMS, it would be maddening. In that sense, Twitter is more like a RSS feed-reader than an email Inbox. This might also be a reason why Facebook’s SMS updates haven’t caught on in India either; at least, the barrage of updates is why I turned the Facebook SMS updates off.

However, for users following 50-100 people, who hopefully don’t update often, this shouldn’t be too much of a bother.

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P.s.: Follow MediaNama on Twitter here for news updates.


— Facebook Mobile Seeks Operator Partnerships, App Developers In India
— Part 2: SMS GupShup CEO Beerud Sheth On Twitter, Carriers, Interconnect, Short Codes, API, Classifieds, M-Payments

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