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Updated: Twitter To Be Free On Airtel; Plans Other Tie-Ups

Update: We wrote about it October, and now it’s been announced by Airtel: free access to twitter from http://mobile.twitter.com is available to Airtel customers until 1st March 2012. Users can also sign up for Twitter using the SMS Short code 53000. Here’s the boilerplate info Airtel has sent across:

– Twitter mobile website: Visit mobile.twitter.com (with or without GPRS subscription), follow simple sign up process by entering your mobile number and start using!
– Create new account on Twitter on SMS: SMS ‘START’ to 53000, upon receiving reply – SMS ‘SIGNUP’ to 53000. Next, type a username (unique and less than 15 characters) and send that to 53000. Once Twitter approves your username, you will get a confirmation message, prompting you to SMS a chosen password to 53000. On completion of this process, your Twitter account will be created. Sign up is only required if a user wants to tweet
– Follow specific Twitter users on SMS: To receive updates from a specific user, SMS ‘Follow’ to 53000. Users can follow others on Twitter on SMS even without having a Twitter account of their own

October 20th 2011: Speaking at at the AsiaD Conference today, Twitter co-Founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey said that the company is looking to tie-up with telecom operators to enable people to use Twitter for free. A tie-up with Bharti Airtel is in the works in India, and according to Dorsey, “It will be kicking off pretty soon”. Dorsey said that this is a pattern they look to replicate with other telecom operators as well.

This is reminiscent of the Facebook tie-ups in India for 0.facebook.com, wherein the company tied up with telecom operators like Reliance Communications to offer access to Facebook for free.

Twitter’s relationship with Airtel isn’t new – Airtel was the first telecom operator to get Twitter on SMS. Airtel used the partnership for advertising, and given that the brand is trying to re-position itself as a youth brand, this might be a good fit again. Also, Airtel would be looking to spur data consumption.

This also means that Airtel isnt neutral as a telecom operator. Why is access to Twitter free, and why not other sites?

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