How Best To Be A Social Media Monster In Europe?

I plan to spend a fair amount of time in europe this summer between some family vacation, scoping out some new web startups in europe, and attending the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in August where my daughter is putting a play on with some schoolmates.

I want to be a social media monster with the new Nokia N95 I am getting. I’ll have qik, twitter, flickr, tumblr, and a host of other services tightly integrated with the phone and I want to post directly from the phone. I am sure I can get all of this to work pretty well.

But the thing I want some advice on is what’s the best way to deal with the carrier on the phone. I am currently thinking that I’ll keep my blackberry for email and phone calls and get a good roaming plan from t-mobile and keep using my phone number while I am in europe.

And I am thinking of getting a good data plan for the N95 and maybe not even get voice for that phone. Given how much texting and MMS and data I plan to use on the N95, I think I want to get an unlimited plan. And I’d like to use it throughout western and eastern europe.

Anyway, I think you all get the picture. What’s the best strategy for me to use this summer?

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Nico Lumma

    you might want to check out, they have pretty decent voice rates. (and might even have a good data plan)

  2. Tom Raftery

    Voice is not the issue. Data roaming is horrificly expensive. Seriously. Talk to Pat Phelan. If anyone can advise you on this, he can.If you need his contact details or an intro drop me a mail.

  3. Niklas Larsson

    I don’t think there’s a solution for this problem, the roaming data charges are absurd but the telcos are uninterested in doing something about it, so you have to get a new sub in each country. It is possible to buy unlimited data prepaid in some countries, 3 has just started selling that here in Sweden.

  4. John Collins

    Ditto what Tom said. Pat Phelan is your man to advise on this. Fred, is Ireland on your itenerary?John

    1. fredwilson

      I will be in dublin at some point. Is there an open coffee I should build.a day trip around?

  5. Daniel

    I am trying to solve the same problem. You may want to check out Vodafone passport:http://www.abroad.vodafone….It’s a bit more resonable with regards to data roaming (£5 per day for up to 15MB on most of the EU). The big problem I see is the USD/GPB exchange rate.

  6. Jackie Danicki

    In the UK, get a pay-as-you-go SIM from 3 for data – they do 3GB for £15 and have a nice sliding scale. You can also put the SIM in a 3 dongle (£50) to get online with your laptop anywhere.As for voice, I go with MAXroam ( Saved me a bomb on my last trip to Europe. (Full disclosure: I am friends with the president of the company, but I’d be saying this anyway.)

  7. Jackie Danicki

    NB Pat Phelan is my friend at MAXroam, and he’s the one who told me to get the 3 SIM in the UK. He can probably advise on the rest of Europe, too, as others here have mentioned.

  8. jon bradford

    nightmare … let me know what you conclude … in the uk look at the “three” pay as you go ……worth also dropping a line to ewan at smstextnews

  9. Nico Lumma

    Fred, don’t you have a t-mobile plan? I remember Scott Rafer had this world data plan thingy last summer where he had unlimited data within any t-mobile network for something like $14.99 a month. I can’t find it online at, though….

  10. jezarnold

    I agree with Jackie.. if I am abroad for a long time, the best solution is to get a local pay as you go simcard.Ok new number, but setup a vm on your old number that points to your temporary number, or just pick up your messages occasionally.

  11. scottpurdie

    Hi Fred, I use O2 and they have a load of bolt-ons. I bought the N95 sim free and use a pay as you go sim, but add monthly bolt-ons depending on what i think il be needing.…I stay just outside Edinburgh in Roslin, if you need any advice about Edinburgh, il do my best to help out. Edinburgh at Fringe time is awesome.

  12. Damien Mulley

    Crikey, everyone has beaten me to recommending you talk to Pat.Fred, come to Ireland if you can, we’d be delighted to welcome you and show you around. Bono might be too busy preaching somewhere outside of Ireland about saving the world to have a pint with you, sorry!

    1. fredwilson

      I could care less about Bono. I want to meet web entrepreneurs

  13. Brian

    Fred, I’m not sure about phone plans, etc. but you might want to get this wallet with space for 2 SIM cards so that you can easily switch between US and International carriers on your phones.…Interested to hear what you decide about the international plans…

  14. topgold

    Please do not get a data upload habit without having an unlocked N95. You will be subjected to extortionate data costs.If you are going to use loadsa data, you need to piggyback on someone’s unlimited data plan. Several of us in Ireland can show you how that’s done in the Irish and UK markets.Once you have started getting addicted to upstreaming megs of content every minute, you need to focus on the free upload points. Generally speaking, that means getting a list of free and open wifi nodes on your phone and then uploading your mail, photos, or videos over free wifi.There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’re sending your data for free. It’s relatively easy for a local business colleague to slip you one of their 3G business SIMs. In my experience, the O2 service delivers higher QOS than any other in Ireland–you will see at least 3 megabits per second in major Irish cities when using it. I get that service standard on many train journeys as well.We’ll try to update the site with dates of OpenCoffee events. Limerick meets the first Thursdays and Cork often meets more than once a month. You would bump into Pat Phelan in Cork if you cruise around in a BMW M6 with the top down. If you don’t have that motor, you should connect with Pat because he has the least expensive voice plans on the planet for your consideration.

  15. deprimer

    I just came back from a week of travelling in Prague & the UK and I used an iPhone – mostly with WiFi (picked up voicemail on EDGE occasionally) and an N95 8Gb for everything else. I had an unlimited plan from T-Mobile which picked up the T-mo network in whichever country I was in. I wasn’t paying for it, so I can’t recommend this as your best option, and their International overview is low on details for their unlimited plans. I do know that ATT seems to have the most well documented list of options available for international smartphone users. Prices are still teh suck tho. It was really great to be able to just walk into any country, turn on my N95 and instantly be back on the grid.If you’ve got a Mac, I would highly recommend tethering – using these instructions with updated N95 HSPDA scripts and setup details from Ross Barkman’s page (ignore the hideous circa 1998 design).Having a roaming login with a WiFi access provider is also extremely helpful. I’ve been using my dial-up account from South Africa (~$3 p/m) for the last few years which gives me roaming access through iPass to many wifi hotspots around the world.

  16. mikenolan99

    I taught in Germany for 5 weeks last year, and traveled every weekend to a different country or two – ya gotta love the EU! Luckily I was paid in Euros. I was also in 18 other countries – twice around the world.I had high hopes of making all my US based communications work well, but in the end opted for German or Swiss T-Mobile cards – and Australian and China cards when over there.All the US options I had got very expensive – and cumbersome. I did have luck forwarding a Skype-In line to a local sim card to let people follow me.My advice is to buy an unlock phone and drop a local sim in it, and have a skype-in local (NYC, etc.) follow it around. Go with the local data plan, and WiFi when you can!Mike Nolan

  17. Loic Le Meur

    Hey Fred, I have a Sprint worldwide data plan on my blackberry and I kept an Orange unlimited monthly data that is how I do it. Sprint is your best choice for data. Problem is you will get only GPRS speed and no 3G, I am not sure what you can do with Orange, I will try to ask friends there.

  18. Jason Devitt

    Fred, here’s how to minimize the cost of phone calls while keeping your US number:Set up a Jajah account. Get a US DID from them. Forward all calls from your T-Mobile account to that number. In each country that you visit, buy a local SIM with the best possible rates for phone calls and data. Then go online and configure your Jajah account to *that* number.Each time someone calls you in the US at your usual number you pay T-Mobile to forward the call to the Jajah line (marginal cost = zero if you are on the right plan), Jajah to forward the call to your mobile (eg 19c per minute to a UK mobile number), and nothing to the local provider, since incoming calls are free.T-Mobile’s international roaming rates are much higher – 99c per minute in the UK for example. Asking your contacts to dial a different number every time you switch countries will cause you to miss important calls. Pat Phelan’s MAXRoam service is the middle ground, since you only require one SIM with one new number, but it’s only half the price of T-Mobile roaming and more importantly does not support data.Jajah can also give you a local number for each country you visit, so that you can dial *out* via them and save money that way too. Even better, use Truphone or Fring for outbound calls wherever you can get a WiFi connection. And install Psiloc Connect on your N95 to make sure that your phone defaults to a WiFi connection when one is available, or the default is the expensive data plan.I’m Irish. Pat is Irish. Trevor Healy, CEO of Jajah, is Irish. Coincidence?Jason

    1. fredwilson

      Go ireland!!The Jajah thing is for voice, which I use very infrequently, if at allBut I may try it anywayWhat I really need is a strategy for data and sms which I use like a madman

  19. mdelrio

    Hi Fred, a solution could be not to roam, but to buy local prepaid cards; in Italy (where i live) that would be cheap and relativly easy; if you happen to be in Italy i would be delighted to help you get in touch with local web (and *mobile!*) enterpreneurs

  20. David B.

    If you stop by Prague, let me know and I’ll give you some good recommendations on where to go, places to eat, etc.

  21. Geoff

    Tickets for the fringe go on sale today http://www.theedinburghblog… Any chance you will be posting up your itinerary so that maybe we get a chance to meet you?

    1. fredwilson

      I haven’t decided if I am going to post my itinerary. We’ll be at the fringefrom aug 5 to aug 10fred

  22. scottythebody

    I can put you in touch with some startup people in Vienna. I can’t vouch for the quality, but it seems to be a pretty active group (open coffees, etc.) as well as a pretty unique focus. Austria, as a small market, tends to look eastward and is being rewarded for being one of the only countries doing so in the early 90s. Let me know.

  23. jill

    Is there a new Union Square Ventures European Fund coming soon? Interesting and why not???Last time we went to Europe we swapped phones with a local family, they used our kids phones here in the States and we used theirs abroad. It worked for both parties as neither had to pay anything extra… but I know swapping(anything) is not for everyone.

    1. fredwilson

      No new fund, but we’ve made one investment in europe so far, covestor, andwould certainly like to do more

  24. Matthias

    are you gonna be in Hamburg, too?

    1. fredwilson

      Maybe. Is there a lot going on in hamburg?

      1. Matthias

        of course 🙂 Berlin and Hamburg are the two web-start-up cities in Germany (i.e. XING located here in Hamburg). If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to get some start-ups together.

      2. Nico Lumma

        of course. you should definetely come to hamburg on your trip. 🙂

  25. jpb

    I’d just like to add that using a QWERTY-less N95 will make your brain hurt. A lot.

    1. fredwilson

      I plan to use both the N95 and my Blackberry CurveThe Curve is for texting, email, and voice (if I every used voice anymore)The N95 is for photos and videofred

  26. Sam

    Fred – if you’re using the N95, definitely check out Ovi from Nokia ( — it is a service which allows you to upload multimedia content and manage that data all using one application on the N95.As far as data goes, I would recommend taking advantage of WiFi hotspots to do some of the uploads…otherwise, a good strategy may be a prepaid SIM with data access. BTW – if you want to text from the N95, you’ll still need a voice plan…

  27. Ian Holton

    Seeing as you are not going to be using voice that much, changing your provider and number shouldn’t be the problem and therefor roaming is not that necessary as far as I understand. So you’d probably be best off with using THREE (3) in all countries that they operate in (UK, Ireland, Austria…) and checking out other cariers in the rest. What I find is that the biggest ones (Vodafone, T-Mobile) don’t offer the best data deals in any off the countries I use my phone in… Look into the smaller ones.

  28. gregory

    this is one crowd-sourced encyclopedia entry that i didn’t learn a thing from … no clear action plan … and no one addressed the difference between prepaid and postpaid, the latter sometimes being the only way to get data services, but requires an address …i will check back, because i have the same question

  29. Don Roll

    Fred,Can’t help you on the best phone plan. Cathy and I are going to the Fringe on August 8 – 10 and would be interested in seeing your daughter’s show. We went two years ago and had a great time. Possibly see you there?Regards, Don

    1. fredwilson

      Sounds good donShoot me an email and we’ll make it happen

  30. bill_roberts

    FredI’m a web entrepreneur based near Edinburgh and a reader of A VC for the last year or two. If you have any spare time on your trip, I’d love to meet up for a coffee or a beer. Also, dates are still to be fixed but if our August meeting coincides with your trip, why not come along to http://internetpro.meetup.c… – usually a Thursday evening.In any case, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your trip to Edinburgh.Bill

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll try to make your meetup as long as it doesn’t conflict with my daughter’s show. She’s performing in the fringe festival

  31. Glenn Gillen

    Fred,I’ve been looking into it myself, but given most of my time is within the UK and not the rest of Europe it skews which provider is most suitable. Presently I’m using 3 with a broadband modem connected to my macbook, and prepaid with £10 monthly when required for a very reasonable amount of data (2gb I think?).Considering an iPhone, so O2 offer data roaming bolt-ons. They aren’t cheap, but they are cheaper than the regular data roaming charges.I suspect though you’d be best served getting a prepaid card with data allowance in each country you visit, especially if you plan to be transmitting video.And let us all know if you’re looking for cultural ideas for your itinerary, the ones for Australia seemed to work. I lived in Edinburgh for a year before coming down to London, the festivals on up there in August (the fringe is just the most publicized of about 7 that run concurrently) are amazing. If you can get tix and fit in a viewing of the Millitary Tattoo and the RBS Orchestra closing of the festivals it’s well worth it.

  32. Evert Bopp

    I thought that it might help referring you to Maxroam and Pat Phelan but it looks like everybody and their granny has beaten me to it ;-).Also if you’re in or near Ireland on July 16th try to make it to the Open Coffee Club BBQ (!

  33. darrylxxx

    If you come to Belfast, let me know, would be a privilege to introduce you to a few web entrepreneurs. Darryl

  34. fredwilson

    I am hearing the t-mobile universal roaming plan for ~$20/month is the way to go