Mumbai, India -- Following a huge surge in Twitter traffic since the start of this year, Twitter is teaming up with Bharti Airtel, India's largest telecom service provider is launching tweetSMS, that will allow its subscribers to send Tweets at standard rates and receive Tweets directly to your phone for free, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in a blog post.
“In many parts of the world people do not have Internet access but they can text -- and that means they can access Twitter,” Stone, said in a blog post.
Customers need only send a text with the word START to 53000 to begin.
“Bharti Airtel is providing people in every city, every village, every remote taluk and even the smallest panchayat the opportunity to connect to Twitter and enjoy the open exchange of information with no added fees,” Stone wrote.
“Our partnership with Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile operator in India, means a huge population can now send Twitter messages at standard rates and receive them for free,” Stone said. Twitter so far has activated full SMS service in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K., the company said.
Bharti Airtel said on its Web site that the tie-up with Twitter would be exclusive for only four weeks, suggesting that after that period, the service may also be offered by other service providers in India.
Bharti Airtel wants to take advantage of the exclusivity period to ensure that Twitter is associated with its brand by consumers, Bharti Airtel said.
India has recently accounts as the third largest market for Twitter in just a few month, with 5 million subscribers of a total of over 11.5 million. “India is likely to become the largest market for Twitter very soon and this service should be a huge catalyst”, Atul Bindal, president-mobile services, Bharti Airtel told TOI.
Twitter moved quickly to establish a link with Bharti Airtel because “organic growth in the region has been unusually strong and there is huge potential for positive impact,” Stone said, pointing to several films stars and politicians who already use Twitter.
“There are over one billion people with Internet access on the planet but there are more than four billion people with mobile phones and Twitter can work on all of them because even the simplest of these devices feature SMS,” Stone added.
Bharti Airtel also has more than 101 million customers base, or 25 percent of India's mobile phone users, so Twitter was likely eager to tap into such a large potential user base.
Twitter, which allows users to pepper one another with 140-character-or-less messages known as “tweets,” has grown rapidly in popularity since it was launched in August 2006 and claims to have topped 50 million users.
Bindal said this is more a consumer-connect initiative to help retain high-end customers and bring in more users, especially the youth segment onto their network. “The launch of tweetSMS is clearly intended as a retention and brand image play rather than a revenue play. However, after mobile number portability is introduced, it could help attract other subscribers to the Airtel network”, agrees Kunal Bajaj, MD of consulting firm BDA Connect. “Over 50% of our 110 million subscribers SMS. Now they can all Tweet. For the price of a single SMS, they can connect to a huge community of Tweeters. This is a big move for the mobile ecosystem”, says Bindal.
SMS Twitter service is also available in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K.
Twitter did not reply to an e-mail asking if it planned ties with other service providers.