Category Archives: Analysis

You might be paying $1,000 per MB for SMS

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Many mobile prepaid service plans in the US still require a per SMS charge. Most charge for sending and receiving and include a premium charge for sending to other countries. Have you ever sat down to figure out how much you’re really paying for this frictionless and convenient mode of communication?

The Plans


  • $.15 send & $.15 receive – domestic
  • $.20 send & $.15 receive – international
  • $4.99 200 message bundle
  • $19.99 unlimited messages

  • $.10 send & $.10 receive domestic to other Verizon phone
  • $.15 send & $.15 receive domestic to other carrier
  • $.25 send & $.10 receive international
  • no bundles
    Sprint/Nextel by Boost Mobile

  • $.10 send & $0 receive
  • $5.00 unlimited messages
    Virgin Mobile MVNO via Sprint

  • $.05 send & $.05 receive
  • $4.99 200 message bundle
  • $1.99 50 message bundle

A Bit of Math

SMS max message size is 160 characters. One character equals one byte. There are 1024 x 1024 or 1,048,576 bytes in 1MB.

So there are 1,048,576 / 160 or 6553.6 SMS messages in 1MB of data.

NOTE: this assumes you use all the characters available in every message which none of us do. Some examples of really short messages show up on my phone frequently like “Ready?” “You home?” “Let’s go.” For illustration purposes and easier math, I’m assuming all 160 characters per message are used.

Calculating message traffic per MB these prepaid subscribers are paying the following rates.

Fun Facts


    • $983.04 per 1MB of message data – domestic
    • $1310.72 per 1MB of message data – international
    • $163.84 per 1MB of message data – 200 message bundle

Note the unlimited amount depends on how many are sent, but for illustration lets’s say you sent and received 1000 SMS. You’re per MB charge is $131.07.


  • $655.36 per 1MB of message data – domestic to other Verizon phone
  • $983.04 per 1MB of message data – domestic to other carrier
  • $1638.40 per 1MB of message data – international
  • no bundles
    Sprint/Nextel by Boost Mobile

  • $655.36 per 1MB of message data
  • $32.77 per 1MB of message data (assuming 1000 messages per month)
    Virgin Mobile MVNO via Sprint

  • $327.68 per 1MB of message data
  • $163.84 per 1MB of message data – 200 message bundle
  • $260.83 per 1MB of message data – 50 message bundle

No wonder the Internet is jealous of mobile data! Oh! and Happy 15th to SMS.

Google Adsense Nonsense Final Chapter?

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The bad check story seems to have struck a chord with lots of people. I’ve enjoyed reading the various posts and comments left here and elsewhere. Thank you to everyone who added to the conversation.

First, the story was picked up by Valleywag and the avalanche began from there. The Huffington Post ran the story from Valleywag and next someone posted it to digg. My traffic exploded thanks to hitting the digg front page. Next, from digg it moved to StumbleUpon and later a number of very high profile news portals and blogs.

Notice that there are zero ads on and that has been the case since I began to write about Adsense. I intentionally and perhaps foolishly didn’t want ads during the story’s life span. The point of posting about this situation was not to serve as link bait and drive traffic for monetization purposes, but to humanize this problem and get Google’s attention. From that perspective I will declare my efforts a success.

Everyone no doubt wants to know if Google made good on the check. The answer is yes. But there’s more to the story and I can’t resist sharing it with you.

July 10th – check bounces and tried to call someone at Google

July 10th – sent an email to Jesus via the generic email address. I had no idea who if anyone might receive that communication. Apparently, no one did.

July 11th AM – phoned Google HQ and left a message with whoever answered the phone for Brian the Adsense payments operations management guy. I was assured that the message would be delivered. The message was to inform him that the check had bounced and I needed further instruction. Basically, a “what now?” plea.

No word. No reply.

July 11th PM – post check bounced article to

No word. No reply.

July 12th – post a comment to Matt Cutts blog which is never published because it posted on an article about Amazon customer service – off topic I presume. Matt did return and comment here on the 13th.

No word. No reply.

July 12th PM – post “by the numbers” article on

July 13th – Google Adsense calls to discuss their findings and recommendations

  • Calling are Suzie and Scott – self described as – in management at Google and covering for Brian who began vacation on July 12th.
  • My message to Brian didn’t get through. There maybe more than one Brian in Adsense payments they tell me.
  • Adsense checks are deposit only (FAQ mentions this for Citibank checks, but mine was from Wells Fargo)

Google would be happy to talk to my bank to ensure the check goes through. (why would that be necessary – and no, don’t want you talking to my bank, thanks) Google already knows everything about me other than the location of the largest birthmark on my body. This idea felt a bit intrusive. Where’s the mystery if you know it all, Google?

Scott the Google management covering for Brian whiles he’s on vacation guy offers to call me back on Monday to ensure all is well, and wants me to know that they want to solve the problem and will stay with the issue until it is resolved.

I tell Scott this. I don’t want to deposit the check. I want to cash it and use the cash for a down payment on a car.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience, Scott tells me.

July 14th – Wells Fargo cashes the check and wants to sign me up for a checking account. I leave the bank happy without a new checking account.

July 16th – at 9AM as scheduled Scott and Suzie call. I inform them that the check is cashed and all is well.

They want me to know that their findings indicate that the problem was a technical one and that the engineers are already tasked with fixing an issue around updates that fall close to the payment cutoff date every month.

Scott and Suzie tell me that my case is being studied to determine how to improve the system. Being a perfect storm, they have learned much from my case.

I ask, “What did you learn? I’d like to hear your takeaways. That’s important to me. I know what I learned.”

Suzie continues to explain the technical issue that they are chasing down and that the engineers are already working on it.

Scott answers with something that I didn’t expect to hear. “We’ve learned that our payment system and what we do has real impact of the lives of our publishers.” Bingo! Empathy is a great teacher.

We discussed what I felt was the more important aspects of creating the perfect storm and that was Google policy and process. Google services accounts with millions of publishers. And like the Wizard of OZ, on our journey we hear about the goodness of the Wizard (Google) and that he can grant our wishes (for revenue) simply by the asking. So when we knock on the door of the Emerald City (Googleplex) only to find a gatekepper who chases us away, it’s not only frustrating but like Dorothy we question the goodness and wisdom of this so called Wizard.

I asked as many others have before me, “What is the revenue split between Google Adsense and we publishers?” Scott explains that this is information Google will not release. I ask him, why, when other ad networks do release this information, would Google want to create a trust issue with it’s publishers rather than be transparent about their take. The only reason I can imagine for not disclosing the details of the revenue split is that it must be unfair to publishers.

What I learned from this experience is that I joined the Adsense network as a publisher/business partner with Google without much thought to the logic and benefits in that partnership. I didn’t give much thought to what I wanted from a partnership with Google or what I wanted from It’s now time to reset and approach my relationship to advertising from a more structured and thoughtful position.

If my experience in this perfect storm of a customer service episode improves things at Google for publishers and front line support staff, then I’ll be very happy with that outcome. Kudos to those I spoke with at Google who worked around a broken system to solve my problem.

I’m closing my account at Adsense until I can see that improvements have been made and until Google discloses their revenue split with publishers. No breath holding on that one.

If anyone out there has ideas for making profitable. I’m all ears.

Goog nite and Goog luck!

Adsense Nonsense – by the numbers

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Two days have passed since I tried to cash my Google Adsense check. Two days ago, I tried to call someone, anyone at Google to find out what to do.

I’ve replied to the email address from which Brian the Adsense payments operations guy wrote to me. Who knows where that thing goes as it’s a generic address, One day has passed since I phoned Google’s main inbound number to leave a message for Brian the Adsense payments operations guy. Twenty-eight total communications between me and someone at Google.

A week has passed since the generous offer from Matt Cutts to help get attention to my plight. Two weeks have passed since I wrote to Google’s email bot for help.

Two months have passed since a technical glitch prevented me from updating my address at Adsense. One month has passed since Adsense actually updated my adress. One week has passed since Brian tried to provide excellent assistance by FedEx’ing a check to me.

Apologies and homage to Jason Shellen

Adsense Nonsense by the numbers

The question that continues to remain unanswered and hangs in the air. “Why has no one from Google responded to my request for help with the NSF check they sent 6 days ago?”

UPDATE: Several bloggers have expressed concern to me privately that they fear blogging about or commenting on this topic would put their participation in the Adsense program in jeopardy. Is ad revenue the price of free speech? Now, that’s scary. This concern is fueled by the numerous reports from bloggers that their Adsense participation has been terminated by Google with little to zero explanation.


Mobile Web – Just Say No!

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Mmetrics have released an interesting little data snack from their smartphone user panels. The chart shows the top “mobile web” destinations in the US versus in the UK.

Top Mobile Web Sites

What’s interesting here is that five of the top ten web sites accessed from mobiles in the UK are carrier/operator sites, while the US list more closely resembles the top www sites list. There are the very consistant top three, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft (MSN) and only two carrier/operator sites in the US top ten list. I’ve asked this question of a number of people in the mobile applications, infrastructure and operator businesses, “Is the US consumers’ entry to mobile data services impacted by the very high PC peneration rate and previous web experience in the US versus Europe?” The answers have varied and granted one should not draw conclusions from this one data point, but it validates asking the question.

The label “mobile web” creates cognitive dissonance and confusion in the marketplace. Is there a separate web? The real answer should be no, and in fact, as one observes the growth and evolution of mobile data services in the US what strikes the chord of recognition and apparently adoption are those services familiar from our web experience which add a mobile specific UI and uniquely mobile VAS (value added service) to existing behaviors.

For example, Alltel’s award winning Celltop application ties web services into a UI which works on handsets and tiny screens. Note: Celltop awards are both industry and user bestowed.

Celltop Business View Celltop Sports View Celltop Consumer View

Weather, news, sports scores, stocks and new ringtones/callback tones are services combined from the web and/or the carrier/operator presented in a handset specific UI. Alltel are also running polls to ask their users which web service they’d like to see offered next through Celltop. The options include a digg feed, Gmail, NASCAR updates or horoscopes. Sounds webilicious, no?

Another example is a personal favorite, Sprint Navigation by Telenav. I love this application.

Sprint Navigation Menu View Sprint Navigation Turn-by-turn Sprint Navigation Traffic

Most of you have used Mapquest, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps or some combination of web based mapping and navigation applications. Telenav brings web services behind maps and navigation along traffic information together with GPS and voice capabilities from the handset and mobile network. The result is a powerful personal navigation solution.

First, your actual location is determined via GPS, then you have the option to type or speak the address of your destination. This is where Telenav have done a superior job of integrating with native handset strength in functionality. Screen viewing to observe navigation instructions is supremely difficult at 80 mph on a California freeway. (This is an illustration not an admission of guilt in case the CHPS are listening.) So, Sprint Navigation allows placing a call from inside the application to an automated voice search facility which locates and confirms your destination address, then returns the handset to application state on completion of the call. Your route is calculated and finally the application checks a web traffic conditions service and either reports traffic is good or reroutes to your destination, if possible.

So great! You’ve got a route, traffic considered, and now to get there you need to view the directions. Well, not nessarily. The application repeats turn-by-turn instructions periodically via voice. Using your headset or speakerphone (safety first people) you will hear updated instructions until the turn is reached or you bypass it. If a turn is missed, the application automatically informs you and recalculates the directions. That’s user fault tolerant which I often need give I suffer BADD (blogger attention deficit disorder) which is far shorter and more easily distracted than ADD or ADHD.

Here are two excellent and well adopted applications which do all the things that we’ve been told at countless events and conferences are essential to a successful application, and more importantly, they are implemented extremely well.

  1. web functionality
  2. augment with handset mobile network strengths
  3. mobile specific UI – this might require multiple modalities (don’t ignore voice)
  4. user centric design and fault tolerant

Okay, maybe the list wasn’t presented exactly this way, but it should’ve been. To all those evangelizing “the mobile web,” please stop. And reset to evangelize web services on mobile devices.

I’ll continue to try and persuade you on this logic. Stayed tuned for the next article of the series: .mobi winners and losers.

Back to the Mmetrics findings.   Well over half of the web browsing activity by smartphone users in the UK occurs on operator portals.  Well over half of the web surfing activity by smartphone users in the US is through Google.  It would be helpful to have a breakdown of the Google activity.  Is that all search?  How much is attributable to Gmail access?  Data always raises more questions.

These findings also highlight another consideration when combined with the illustrations of web services in this article.  What does it now mean to access the web from a mobile device?  Are web services through thick clients merely a interim step on the path to fully functioning web browsers on mobile devices?  I think not.  Again, with the example of Sprint Navigation, it takes a handset application to weave handset functionality into a complete solution.

And finally what does it mean that smartphoners in the UK rely upon their operator portals for web browsing?  Are the services offered by operators superior to those on the web?  Is it habit?   Or perhaps, the walled garden is simply more persistent in the UK than it is in the US.

Data Goldmine from Mobile and Social Networks

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The BBC reports on how real time data on mobile phone use in Rome is being used by MIT researchers to observe how people move around the city through the day.

Map of mobile usage in Rome

Anyone who has ever driven in Rome or any city in Italy knows the chaos which results from traffic congestion.  Researchers are looking to the mobile networks for real time data on the movement of people through the city.  Mobile networks must track phones to execute handoffs between towers as one moves in through space to ensure optimal signal strength.

There is little doubt that the mountains of data we generate when using our phones for talking, texting surfing the web or engaging with our social networks offers astonishing opportunities for new applications, targeted marketing, and new lines of business for those who house and store our data.

In Rome, one possible application for all this real-time information is its use by traffic planners to expand roads or increase public transportation resources in obviously high traffic areas.   The article extends this idea.

…in future sic buses might not stick to a fixed timetable or even route.

Sending busses to where the people are rather than vice-versa could mean fewer wasted journeys, so Real Time Rome might ultimately be good for the environment.

Better route planning for buses and cars could mean less time standing in traffic, pumping out noxious fumes.

Another example of how this data might be put to use was a demonstration by Verizon Wireless for the AdAge’s Madison+Vine event in LA last year.  Verizon wanted to show Madison Avenue the power of data mining its users to generate targeted advertising.  The demo consisted of a list of Verizon users in the LA area who had downloaded a hiphop ringtone during the previous 30 days.  A group of 10,000 of these identified subscribers were offered concert tickets for a same day outdoor concert and all of the 10,000 tickets were purchased in the span of one hour, according to John Stratton, chief marketing officer, Verizon Wireless.

And finally, consider MySpace’s move to launch a record label, and now, it’s own TV network.  These new lines of business are enabled and assured by the knowledge of what music and media (think YouTube) that MySpacers are consuming and promoting to their networks.  Further, the company knows much personal information about the demographics they can target with new media services.

The backend data from social networks, mobile phone networks and of course, mobile social networks and social media is a treasure chest for the data miners, researchers and marketeers wishing to understand or monetize your interactions.

India loves to talk on mobile phones

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The Economic Times reports that Indian talk-time on mobile phones has reached a high of 461 minutes per month per subscriber. Indians are the most talkative nationality in the Asia-Pacific region out chatting the largest mobile market, China with 450 million subscribers, by 150 to 240 minutes.

The world’s four largest mobile markets are China, US, India and Russia. When it comes to usage, India with 166 million subscribers is second only to the US where the average American spends 838 minutes per month talking on their mobile phones. Russia with the fourth largest subscriber base logged a mere 88 minutes per month. China falls in the middle with China Mobile reporting usage of 303 mintues per month and China Unicom at 220 mintues.

Some of the variance in talk-time is easily explained by the assoicated tariffs. For example, voice charges in India average $.02 per minute with about $.01 per SMS making it one of the world’s cheapest mobile markets. India, also, adheres to the calling party pays and free inbound SMS schemes familiar to Europeans. Callers and receivers both pay in the US, but subscribers purchase flat rate buckets of minutes on both postpaid and prepaid plans many of which, now, include unlimited SMS. Contrast these subscriber friendlier plans with Russia where voice calls average $.20 per minute within a city and $.27 per minute from, say, Moscow to St. Petersburg. Also, both inbound and outbound calls are charged. Clearly, price matters.

India’s low tariff market is also a low penetration market. Although, growth rates are soring with 68% subscriber increase from March of 2006 to March 2007 according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in Delhi. And with the India mobile market forecasted to triple in the next four years, heavy weights like Vodafone are betting big on talkative Indians.