Twitter's latest deal points to ambitions in emerging markets

Digital Content

The social network is expanding its service for feature phone users, following Facebook's lead in trying to expand its userbase in the developing world

Twitter has signed an agreement with a Swiss mobile software company that will offer cheap Twitter access to users on low-end tariffs and basic "feature" phones.

The deal with Myriad Company will allow users to access content from Twitter without requiring them to log in. They can also subscribe to receive updates on topics such as news and weather or from specific Twitter users.

The service provide users with text-only information, taking advantage of USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) technology, built into most basic mobile devices.

Although Myriad have provided the service for a number of years, this agreement sees Twitter officially endorse it as a USSD partner.

The service is initially going to be rolled out to users in Latin America, Africa, Asia and India.

Analysis by communications company Portland in 2012 found that 57% of tweets from Africa were sent from mobile devices.

With many users already keen to access Twitter on their mobile phones, is seen as the next logical step to facilitate a growing user base in countries where mobile internet access is either not ubiquitous or is relatively expensive to access.

The deal follows statements made in its IPO filing to the Securities and Exchanges Commission this year. Within the documents, Twitter made claims that their "business and operating results could be harmed" if they did not expand and were likely to invest in infrastructure to facilitate this.

Under the section titled Risk Factors, it is written: "We expect to continue to invest in our infrastructure in order to enable us to provide our products and services rapidly and reliably to users around the world, including in countries where we do not expect significant near-term monetization."

The move by Twitter follows in the footsteps of Facebook, who have been reaching out to users in emerging markets for years.

Facebook Zero, for example, was launched in May 2010 and allowed Facebook users in 45 countries around the world to access a lighter, text-only, version of the social network with zero data charges. In the 18 months after Facebook Zero was launched, Facebook users in Africa increased by 114%.