NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The global data village is turning out to be not so warm and cozy after all.
"Cell data networks around the world are becoming more locked and harder to work between," said Joe Fennell, chief operating officer for XCom Global, the worldwide cellular data access reseller based in San Diego. "If you're in the United States, it has gotten to the point where, if you buy, say, an AT&T LTE-band phone and then try to use it overseas, chances are it won't work."
Fennell was untangling for me the suddenly complex global cell market from his unique perspective of selling leased access to wireless data networks in 185 countries, mostly to global travelers. His roughly 250 employees, working from five countries, sell Web and data services for flat rates starting at $14.95 per day. And over the years that I've tested Fennell's products in Italy and India, I have to say that, unlike most other global telecom services, XCom really does work as advertised.
But much more intriguing for American investors is Fennell's unique perspective on the inner dysfunctions of the world's cell data networks -- and in turn, the global chances for companies such as Facebook and Google hoping to expand beyond tapped-out North American markets.
"Our model is pretty much like Netflix," he said. XCom commits to thousands of variable-cost, in-country carrier cellphone lines, then resells that access at a fixed cost. And hopefully at a profit. "We have to be very smart about how we price the usage we sell," he said. "We've gotten pretty good at it, but if our customers over-consume, we feel it."