Vodafone Essar has partnered with Swiss company Myriad to offer social networking and messaging services over SMS and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data ), to its subscribers in India.

According to a press statement from Myriad, Vodafone will leverage Myriad’s Xumii mobile social networking platform, and deploy Myriad Updates, a text based service that allows subscribers to use social networking services on their mobile phones using text messages and USSD menus, without subscribing to a data plan.

Vodafone will also deploy other mobile services from Myriad including SMS, Instant Messaging and mobile email. The services allow subscribers to view multiple messaging channels simultaneously in the same thread. As per Myriad’s website, Myriad Updates offers access to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Flickr. This announcement just mentions the partnership and there are no details on when the service will be commercially launched on Vodafone.

Our Take

Vodafone seems to have joined the party a little late when it comes to offering standard social network offerings through non-data channels. The operator still does not support Twitter and Facebook updates via Text Messages.

While we do agree that users who don’t want to use data or use it occasionally, should be able to access social networking services, and this can be a good source of revenue for the operator, we still feel that Social Networking is incomplete without multimedia. The text-only experience is a compromise in terms of both user experience and features.

For telcos, the focus of late has been on promoting mobile internet usage and social networking is certainly one of the killer apps. Infact, Vodafone is aggressively promoting its Facebook feature phone, which it recently launched. Others like Reliance Communications have been offering free access to mobile Facebook.

Airtel had also launched Facebook via USSD through mobile solutions provider U2opia Mobile, earlier this year. Aircel had launched their SMS based Facebook update service, as early as 2009, and had extended it over Voice, as well.

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