Bharti launches USSD Facebook service

Dylan Bushell-Embling
18 May 2011

India's Bharti Airtel has launched what it says is the world's first USSD-based Facebook service.

The service, Facebook by Fonetwish, allows the operator's users to access Facebook features without subscribing to data services, Bharti said.

The service is is based on an application developed by Singapore-based U2opia Mobile.

Site data is delivered using the menu-based structure of USSD. Posting status updates is free, but the full application, including news feeds, confirming friends requests' and posting on walls, costs 1 rupee ($0.022) per day

Bharti marketing director Shireesh Joshi said it had been designed to fill a need in the Indian mobile market, “where the penetration of smart phones is relatively low and use of internet on mobile is primarily limited to key cities.”

Social network partnerships

Bharti's deal with Facebook is just one of several operator-social network tie-ups announced in the last few days.

Japan's KDDI yesterday said it had entered a partnership with Facebook to integrate the social network across KDDI's services including jibe, its social address book.

The companies will also collaborate on a Facebook widget, and connect KDDI's music and shopping services to Facebook's social graphs.

Rival NTT DoCoMo on Friday also said it had reached an agreement with Twitter to develop mobile apps and services incorporating features of the microblogging site.

Facebook has a history of collaboration with mobile operators. When it launched text-only mobile site last year, the company had secured agreements to make the site available with zero data charges through more than 50 mobile operators, including SingTel, Indonesia's XL and Australia's Telstra.

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