Tuenti Launches Zero Cost Data Tied To Its Social Network (With PRISM-Free Privacy)

You might not have heard of Spanish social network Tuenti, but it was acquired by Telefonica back in 2010 for $99 million and has garnered over 14 million users. Since then it’s opened up to worldwide users in most languages, launched new apps (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Firefox OS) and moved heavily into messaging.

It’s also become more than just a social networking app. Last year it launched an MVNO – Tuenti Móvil – and now it’s unveiling a new strategy. Tuenti Móvil customers will now be able to call, chat, and share without using data or phone credit. It sounds crazy but in fact it’s clever. It will draw more customers to the Tuenti MVNO because it’s tied to this social network.

Just over a year ago, they launched in Spain a data-centric MVNO offer with 1GB for a €6 tariff which is very competitive in Europe.

Here’s how it works: The free (called “Zerolimites”) data tariff on Tuenti Móvil is automatically activated as soon as the user purchases a data bundle with any of Tuenti Móvil’s tariffs. If the user consumes the entire Gig of data they are allowed, they still get to use the Tuenti app, and send messages, without it being reflected on their bill. If they run out of cash and can’t top up the account (kinda important in cash-strappedSpain right now) they can still continue to use the Tuenti app for 30 more days. The fair use policy of Tuenti is 1GB per month of exclusive use of the Tuenti app.

But here’s the secret sauce: there is an enormous viral factor in that anyone on any operator can use the Tuenti app. So when your friend on Tuenti Móvil runs out of credit, they can still chat with you though the app. That just incentivises more people to sign up to Tuenti Móvil, knowing that their temporary cash flow issue won’t be a problem. This is a big deal for younger mobile users, of course.

The numbers are not big right now. Tuenti Móvil has so far reached 150,000 customers in its the first year. In theory this new service will help those numbers.

CEO and founder Zaryn Dentzel says “we’re not just a social network anymore, but rather an integrated social communication multi-platform, primarily mobile, that’s backed up by innovation and added value.”

Like Twitter, Tuenti’s messages are limited to 140 characters and Facebook you can share photos etc — “moments” in Tuenti lingo — that appear in your contacts’ timelines. Users broadcast to everyone (Twitter), to your close friends (like Facebook), or just directly to single contacts, a little like you would on an app like Pair.

In Spanish “tu entidad” means ‘your entity, your identity’, hence the name and in English it’s a pun on the number 20, or 20 close friends.

Note also that the data is sent via SSL – an interesting point in the age of PRISM. It means none of the activity on Tuenti is ever indexed in Google.