Tata Teleservices Limited and IIT Bombay Center for Excellence in Telecom (TICET) has announced the launch of a rather interesting Mobile Social Network Platform which enables telecom operators to develop personalized applications and send targeted promotions to users within the network. It was launched by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal yesterday. What is interesting about it is that it tries to make the promotions more relevant to the user, by analyzing the user’s demographic profile, call records, location, buddy list and other areas of interest, which the Social Network picks up from the consumer’s usage patterns. In a sense, it adds a layer of information based on mobile usage patters, on top of already available demographic information and social connections.

According to TICET, the algorithm mines call detail records available and searches for patterns in interactions between various users. These patterns, along with the information about the set of applications that a user is currently using – and what his friends like/dislike – are then analyzed to narrow the choice down to a specific set of users with similar interests. The assumption is that anything that is popular in a user’s “cluster” has a high probability of being liked by users in that cluster, and thus, can be recommended to them.

Applications

For example, the application can send an advertisement of a Restaurant in form of an SMS, at lunch time, depending on the location, demographic profiles and preferences of his friends, on the social network or send the user a caller tune recommendation on the basis of the same factors. The applications that are currently available on the platform include a health care app, targeted callertune recommendation app, Reminder and a Quiz app. The MSNP platform can host SMS-based applications as well.

P.S – We found a brochure (pdf) on the IIT Bombay website, offering some more details about the platform.

Our Take

MSNP offers a chart, comparing itself with mobile social networks like Mig33, Limbo, Gypsii and Mobango. Although all mobile social networks analyse user profiles and buddy lists to offer recommendations for advertisers, MSNP is the only one which analyses call records information. But that is just because it is hosted by telecom operators.

While the service will enable advertisers to offer highly targeted mobile advertising campaigns, we are not sure if users will like a service to track their location and more over have access to their calls and calling patterns. Even if the user data is anonymized, how can users be sure that service providers will not misuse it, when they receive a large number of spam SMS everyday.

Nikhil adds: While the mobile phonebook is potentially a very powerful social network, why would a user join yet another social network? Instead of creating a network, perhaps telecom operators are better off just analysing connections already in place.