Singapore-based app developer U2opia Mobile has made it possible for mobile customers without internet connections to access Twitter. Using the USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) protocol, non-smartphones can receive trending topics on Twitter, text only, without images or video. U2opia Mobile, a startup that already provides reduced versions of Facebook and Google Talk via USSD to 11 million customers in Africa and South America, partners with MNOs including Vodafone and Telenor to deliver the content. Typically U2topia takes 30 to 40 percent of the fees users pay their mobile operators to access it.
U2opia Mobile CEO Sumesh Menon said, “For a lot of end users in the emerging markets, it’s going to be their first Twitter experience.” Mobile operators that partner with U2opia will no doubt be hoping that this experience will induce those end users to upgrade to smartphones and data plans after their initial taste of Twitter. And Twitter, which went public in November, clearly expects USSD-based access to extend its reach—and eventually, revenue from advertising—into areas where it has, up until now, been unable to penetrate.