Twitter re-launches SMS in the UK – But only if you're on Vodafone

Whispers started to come out today about this, but Twitter has now confirmed that it has re-launched out-going SMS in the UK on a shortcode, but with only one provider, Vodafone. So while Vodafone UK customers will be able to receive SMS updates from Twitter as part of their package, and send for free to begin with, users on other networks will have to wait while Twitter negotiates separate deals. The free offer is for a trial period, after which sending a message to Twitter will count as a normal SMS, although receiving updates will remain free.

Twitter cut the ability to get your Twitter feed last August after starting to throttle the service down in November 2007. At the time co-founder Biz Stone said that: “Even with a limit of 250 messages received per week, it could cost Twitter about $1,000 per user, per year to send SMS outside of Canada, India, or the US.” Although they’d been able to negotiate service fees with mobile operators in the US and Canada, negotiations failed in the UK. TechCrunch Europe caught up with co-founder Ev Williams at TechCrunch 50 to quiz him about this very subject.

Word among operators then was the Twitter had behaved like amateurs, attempting to dictate terms. However, with Twitter growing like a weed in the UK now and being adopted by celebrities left right and centre, they clearly got back into a reasonable negotiating position.

It’s fascinating to think back to it now but mobile Twitter took off in the UK amongst early adopters – largely people in tech – precisely because it had an SMS service. Jaiku, the competing service which was bought and killed off by Google only had SMS in Finland, a tiny market. It languished on the desktop rather than the mobile and only had a client for one mobile device, Nokia/Symbian. Twitter’s API saved it, allowing others to develop applications to the point where we are today, with many ways to access to service.

Whether the Vodafone announcement will draw Twitter users to the network remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a more mainstream way for people to get into Twitter so should serve them well enough.

Here’s their full announcement:

Thursday, March 26, 2009
Full SMS Service for Vodafone UK Customers!
Extending the power of the real-time network globally through the simple technology of SMS is a driving goal for Twitter. Anyone in the world can update Twitter via SMS but receiving tweets on your mobile has been restricted to North America. Today, we’re happy to announce an agreement between Vodafone UK and Twitter. The shortcode for UK Vodafone customers is 86444 and you can activate your mobile in your Twitter settings.

What’s The Deal?

Vodafone UK has signed an agreement with Twitter allowing customers to send and receive SMS updates at no additional cost. Sending tweets from your mobile will be part of your normal text messaging bundle with Vodafone—there will be no extra fees. In fact, for the first few weeks, sending tweets won’t even effect your bundle. Receiving tweets via SMS on your mobile is totally free. Vodafone loves Twitter!

Making Progress

In the United States, folks can send and receive tweets via SMS at no extra charge. In Canada, Bell Mobility customers can do the same. Now Vodafone customers in the UK can send and receive tweets. Twitter will continue to make arrangements with operators around the world so hopefully your country and your mobile provider will be next!