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Twitter to be available on mobile phones without Internet

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw
People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw

By Sruthi Ramakrishnan

(Reuters) - Twitter Inc is tying up with a Singapore-based startup to make its 140-character messaging service available to users in emerging markets who have entry-level mobile phones which cannot access the Internet.

U2opia Mobile, which has a similar tie-up with Facebook Inc, will launch its Twitter service in the first quarter of next year, Chief Executive and Co-founder Sumesh Menon told Reuters.

Users will need to dial a simple code to get a feed of the popular trending topics on Twitter, he said.

More than 11 million people use U2opia's Fonetwish service, which helps access Facebook and Google Talk on mobile without a data connection.

Twitter, which boasts of about 230 million users, held a successful initial public offering last month that valued the company at around $25 billion.

U2opia uses a telecom protocol named USSD, or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, which does not allow viewing of pictures, videos or other graphics.

"USSD as a vehicle for Twitter is almost hand in glove because Twitter has by design a character limit, it's a very text-driven social network," Menon said.

Eight out of 10 people in emerging markets are still not accessing data on their phone, he said.

U2opia, which is present in 30 countries in seven international languages, will localize the Twitter feed according to the location of the user.

"So somebody in Paraguay would definitely get content that would be very very localized to that market vis a vis somebody sitting in Mumbai or Bangalore," he said.

The company, whose biggest markets are Africa and South America, partners with telecom carriers such as Telenor, Vodafone and Bharti Airtel Ltd. U2opia usually gets 30 to 40 percent of what users pay its telecom partners to access Fonetwish.

"For a lot of end users in the emerging markets, it's going to be their first Twitter experience," Menon said.

(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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