Indian provider launches Twitter by SMS

Twitter has tied up with India's largest mobile services provider, Bharti Airtel, to allow its subscribers to send and receive Twitter messages using SMS (short message service), the micro-blogging service said Wednesday on its blog.

The partnership means that a huge population can now send Twitter messages at standard rates and receive them for free, Twitter 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.

Twitter did not reply to an e-mail asking if it planned ties with other service providers.

SMS access to Twitter is likely to be more popular in India than mobile services that require Internet access, because a very small percentage of mobile phones in India are Internet enabled. Twitter launched a service in India last year that allowed subscribers to use the service without paying international SMS charges, but it discontinued the offering, citing costs, according to some reports.

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, Twitter said.

India has a number of high-profile Twitter users, including the country’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor. The minister landed himself in controversy recently when he referred to “holy cows” in jest in one of his posts on Twitter. Cows are considered sacred in Indian society.

India added 15 million mobile subscribers in August, taking the total number of subscribers to 457 million, according to the country’s telecommunications regulator. The country added 14.4 million subscribers in July.

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