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OTT rebuttal: We're not like the others, says Twitter exec

ITEM: Okay, it wasn’t exactly a rebuttal to anti-OTT statements, but Twitter’s Arvinder Gujral used his keynote speech at LTE Asia 2015 on Wednesday to make an energetic case for telcos to partner with OTT players – or at least with OTT players like Twitter.

Indeed, Gujral – Twitter’s APAC director for business development – sought to distance Twitter from other OTT players, and established his telco-friendly credentials by pointing out that (1) telco assets are “highly underappreciated” in the traditional OTT space, and (2) Gujral used to work for Aircel, “so I understand the pain, and I understand the challenges on the ground.”

Gujral pointed out that Twitter – which he says has already established partnerships with over 500 cellcos worldwide – is different from other OTT apps in that it is “live, public and conversational”. What that means: what happens on Twitter doesn’t stay on Twitter.

“Most other OTT apps are siloed apps – whatever you post in those apps stays within those apps,” he explained. “But whatever you post on Twitter is public. Everyone can see it, and everyone can respond to it. If President Obama posts a tweet about Vladimir Putin, you can respond directly to him.”

Moreover, he added, tweets are regularly read outside of Twitter’s newsfeed. “You see them embedded in a New York Times article, you see them in your Facebook timeline.” And every time you read one on another site or app, he said, Twitter counts that as a consumed tweet.

The point: “This is filling up your LTE pipes,” he said.

Even at 500 million tweets a day, that might not be so impressive if Twitter was still limited to 140-character text messages. But with Twitter now supporting multimedia tweets, including video apps like Vine and Periscope, that’s adding up to more serious data traffic. According to Gujral, Twitter saw a 400% growth in video consumption in just one quarter (from Q4 2014 to Q1 2015). He also said 82% of Twitter users watch video content.

Gujral outlined three ways that Twitter can work with telcos and bring added value to their LTE offerings: as a content aggregator (i.e. delivering customized timelines for things like the FIFA World Cup, for example), as a customer engagement tool (i.e. responding to angry customers, giving them special offers or enabling top-up purchases) and as an enabler for telcos to become digital service providers via Twitter Fabric, its free software development kit for mobile apps developers.

Gujral said cellcos can use Fabric to follow a similar journey as OTTs in rolling out digital apps fast. Of course, third-party developers can also use Fabric to develop their own apps – the point, said Gujral is that Fabric enables cellcos to get in the game at (more or less) the same level and development/rollout speed.

(This also works out well for Twitter, as Fabric is reportedly designed for developers to use MoPub, the company’s advertising product. When you write MoPub into your app and sell ads, Twitter gets a cut of the revenue.)

Gujral’s keynote followed Tuesday’s panel session on new operator business models, during which Changkul Jo, VP of the technology development center of LG U+, complained that OTT players were “exploiting our resources” and “stealing money from our industry.”

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