Posts from international

International Wireless Roaming

My family has been in europe for the past couple weeks. And we've been trying to keep our data roaming costs down. The Gotham Gal and I have a sweet blackberry plan on T-Mobile that provides a really excellent international data roaming deal.

My two kids who are in europe with us both use iPhones and they turned off data roaming while we were in Rome and Zurich, except for Josh who turned it on to checkin to places on foursquare and then turned it off. Turns out that Foursquare checkins don't use up a lot of mobile data. Looks like about 140kb based on ATT Wireless' user dashboard.

Even so, he is running up against his 20mb of data that comes with his current international roaming plan.

And now that we are in London, I decided to figure out a better way. It's pretty easy to get an iPhone unlocked over here. There are stores all over Oxford Street that will do it very inexpensively. Then you can get a "pay as you go" plan from one of the mobile carriers here. We chose O2 which is a Telefonica owned carrier. They have a plan for 30 pounds that gives you unlimited data here in the UK, 500 text messages, preferred rates for international calls and texts and that all comes with 30 pounds worth of charges. Once you spend the 30 pounds, you can "top off" the account.

We set this up for my daughter yesterday and I am seriously considering setting it up for my son as well. The only slight drag is they now have a new phone number. Not a big deal for The Gotham Gal and me. We can simply add that new number to our address books. But it is a bigger bummer for their friends and family who don't know they have a new number.

I am going to look into setting up forwarding their calls on their US numbers. I have no idea how to set up forwarding for text messages, if that is even possible.

You might wonder if it is worth all of this effort. Well I have had a number of europe trips that resulted in $1000+ phone bills when I got back. And that was for a couple weeks. There is no way we are going to let that happen, particularly with kids who live on their mobile phones.

I figure 30 pounds should buy my kids at least a week of full tilt mobile roaming. Maybe they can go two weeks on that amount. In any case, even if we end up spending 100 pounds on each of our two kids who are here for a month, that is a lot less than $1000 that we could end up spending if we stuck with their ATT Wireless numbers.

This whole international roaming thing sure feels like a racket to me. We have affordable plans in the US. We can buy affordable plans in the UK. Why do we have to change numbers to make that happen? Why can't we simply buy the affordable plan in the UK via our US carrier and have it work for as long as we are in the UK?

I suspect that people who live here in europe and travel a lot between countries are way more experienced with this problem. I'm curious what they do to deal with this problem.

#Blogging On The Road

Does Rest Of World Matter More Than The US?

I spent some time on Comscore this morning looking at US vs Rest Of World traffic for some of the largest web properties. Here are the stats for Feb 2010:

Google: 890mm worldwide visitors, 745mm non US – 84% non US

Facebook: 471mm worldwide visitors, 370mm non US – 78% non US

Twitter: 74mm worldwide users, 53mm non US – 72% non US

I suspect Facebook and Twitter will both end up north of 80% once their internationalization efforts are fully realized. Facebook is a lot farther along that path than Twitter but it seems like Twitter is growing like a weed outside the US right now. This is a Comscore chart of Twitter's non-US traffic through February 2010.

Twitter non US 

The conventional wisdom is that international usage cannot be monetized as well as US traffic and that is certainly true. But with >80% of your potential users outside of the US, I think the web sector needs to start working harder on international monetization.

Even if international traffic could only be monetized 25% as well as US traffic, when your international traffic is 80% of your total traffic, you would make as much money internationally as domestically. So that's a lot of potential out there to be tapped.

And of course, not every international market is equal when it comes to monetization. Markets like western europe and japan monetize very well today. Emerging markets like the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, China, and India) should be big opportunities for monetization this decade. Other markets may be tough for years to come.

What this means to me is that web services that are highly international today should invest in fully localizing their user experience and then start thinking about monetizing outside of the US. Start with local partners and then start putting people on the ground in your best international markets.

There's a lot of money "rest of world" and I suspect that will only be more and more true over time. So we should start building web businesses with that in mind.

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#VC & Technology