Disrupting the roaming mobile data market

Whenever I plan travel outside of the U.S. I’m thrown back into this archaic and ridiculous world of international mobile data rates. AT&T is perhaps the most notorious with their ludicrous fees of $19.968/MB unless you buy into one of their pre-paid packages, but even then the prices aren’t much better. This means that just watching a single YouTube video could cost you upwards of $50.

Practices like this hurt our technology companies. Consider a company like Foursquare, that could be extremely useful for restaurant and entertainment recommendations when you visit foreign cities. Their service is rendered useless without mobile data due to these high roaming fees. On a recent trip to India I tried out the Lonely Planet iPhone apps on my service-less iPhone. It worked well enough for the big tourist spots or the few restaurants that the guide book had reviewed, but this practice doesn’t scale well, and the information they contain is quickly outdated. We could have much better recommendations while on the go if we had access to the same data as we do at home.

So I have a question for discussion, and a challenge. If companies like Boost mobile can re-sell domestic calling and data plans for so cheap, what’s keeping companies from coming in and offering competitive international roaming? Why does AT&T charge completely ridiculous rates for international roaming? And finally, what can we do as entrepreneurs to disrupt this market and provide travelers with a useful service?

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