Two-thirds of the world’s mobiles are dumb phones. Meet the company getting them online
U2opia takes dumb phones and uses the so-called Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) protocol to allow such phones to connect to specific internet services such as Twitter and Facebook tailored for the small screen and text-only functionality. This is done through the company’s proprietary platform Fonetwish, which has signed agreements with Facebook and Twitter. An estimated 62% of the phones used in the world are dumb phones, officially called “feature phones” by manufacturers and networks. Their market share is much higher in emerging markers.
U2opia’s real achievement is not in making Facebook available on feature phones.It is that it used the global lure of Facebook and Twitter to build an emerging markets user base that is of interest and value to all manner of clients. A European football club wants to develop an interactive application for their fans in Africa. A large UK media company wants to reach a far-flung audience. An American health care nonprofit wants to reach parts of the emerging world. A US seed company wants to do a field trial with farmers in Andhra Pradesh. All are in talks with U2opia to build those services on top of U2opia’s technical platform.