Monzo at the border


#1

I went from Palestine to Jordan and I literally got the Monzo “Welcome to Jordan” push notification as i was ON the Allenby Bridge. Like physically on the international border line.

I was incredibly impressed.

How do you do that? GPS?


(Andre Borie) #2

Did you have the location-based security enabled? That would be the only way for Monzo to get your location in near real-time without you making a transaction.


#3

Surely they still shouldn’t query location without need (i.e. transaction) constantly anyway? That’ll drain your battery really fast, won’t it?


(Andre Borie) #4

Monzo relies on your device keeping them up-to-date about significant location changes. The device doesn’t stream the location to Monzo in real-time, instead it remembers that Monzo requested significant location updates, and when such an event happens (attaching to a cell tower from a different network), it wakes up the app and provides updated location data. Because the phone would attach to the tower anyway, there is almost no extra battery drain associated with this.

If Monzo were to do what you’re suggesting, that would then become a pretty huge battery drain, not to mention that it would be impossible as Monzo only has few seconds to respond to an authorization request from MasterCard, which is often not enough to get a location update from the phone.

In this case, the phone attached to a different tower when crossing the border, updated Monzo with the location, and they decided to send out a welcome notification. Simple and efficient.


#5

If this was implemented in this way (and I have no doubt that Monzo isn’t continously polling location as the drain would be so massive that everyone would complain at the top of their voice) then the “near real time” experience of this particular user would’ve been essentially coincidence, right? (Having been in various near-border locations for various lengths of time I can tell you that my phone has often switched back and forth randomly between various countries’ network towers, and I have never gotten a notification from Monzo - though plenty of “Welcome to [insert country here]” texts, which gets super annoying after a few weeks…)


(Andre Borie) #6

It is indeed coincidence. It could be that the phone switched towers long before the border, but that negotiation with a totally different network and re-establishment of PDP contexts (for the phone to get internet access so it can update Monzo of its new location and get the notification back) took just long enough for the user to be right on the border.


(Alex Sherwood) #7

Here’s how this works :slight_smile:


#8

But here’s the thing - I was still on a Palestinian mobile phone network. So even if I changed from one Palestinian cell tower to another, that wouldn’t signal to Monzo that I’d crossed the border.


(Andre Borie) #9

A tower change (unrelated to a network change) tells the phone it’s location might have changed significantly. The phone then woke up and triangulated its position based on multiple nearby towers; you don’t have to be associated with a tower to know it’s there and be able to infer your position; the phone inferred it’s position based on the foreign towers while still being connected to the local towers and it turned out that it’s estimated location ended up on the other side of the border.


#10

Ah interesting!


(Allie) #11

Slightly off topic so my apologies but I didn’t know there were different networks in Palestine from the rest of Israel. Do these networks get included in free roaming in Israel plans like 3’s Feel At Home? Just curious!

To keep it relevant - did you get a notification when switching from Israeli to Palestinian networks (given currency and card usage remains the same, such a notification seems unnecessary)?


#12

Palestine has two mobile networks that operate across the country (Jawwal and Wataniya). I don’t think they’re included in 3’s Feel at Home. Israeli mobile networks operate in Israel but also inside Palestine, since Israel occupies a lot of Palestinian territory.

So inside Palestine, you have a unique situation where across the whole country, two parallel mobile systems operate. Until a month ago, Palestinian networks only had 2G while the Israeli ones had 4G (due to Israeli restrictions).

Anyway, if you’re using 3’s Feel at Home in Palestine and you want to stick to Israeli networks, you’ll need to ensure you switch off automatic network selection, otherwise you’ll almost certainly switch over to a Palestinian network at some point and get huge charges.

Alternatively, you could support the Palestinian economy and buy a Palestinian sim card (for about £1).

As for the notifications, I think I got a Welcome to Palestine at some point. I remember seeing the Palestinian flag and being impressed. But crossing from Palestine into Israel there was no notification (I don’t think Monzo would like to be held responsible for declaring where THAT border lies!)


(Allie) #13

Thanks for the info! I don’t think I’ll ever end up there, doubt I’d be welcome in those parts, but that’s a different can of worms… I was just technically curious :slight_smile:

How good are the Israeli networks through Palestinian areas? Do they have sites in the area or are they hitting it from outside, it seems it would be hard to get good speeds hitting from outside (inadequate site density/cells too big).


#14

Every settlement has multiple cell towers. And I think the Israeli-controlled highways do as well. So almost everywhere in the West Bank I was seeing 4G on Israeli networks (sometimes some networks were unavailable).

As for being welcome, I’m happy to give you tons of travel advice (unless I get booted off this forum for going massively off topic!). I think you’d be very surprised. Palestinians are keen to show people what life is like (even to Israelis). And I’ve rarely been somewhere so welcoming. I’ve heard of a couple of interesting tours if you are nervous about travelling alone. Anyway, travel guide over :wink:


(Allie) #15

Thanks for the info! I sent a PM with more questions to keep this on track.

How does Monzo handle border hopping frequently? E.g. around Ireland where you could go back and forth repeatedly.


#16

Good question. I got a few Welcome to Israel (or Palestine) and Welcome to Jordan when I was near the border over a period of a few days.

Replying to your PM now.


(Andre Borie) #17

I would recommend against using a local SIM in those areas as your internet traffic would be going out within the country and probably subject to eavesdropping or MITM attacks, while roaming traffic is likely to stay clear (not saying it can’t be MITM’d or monitored, but so far I haven’t heard of a single public case of that happening - even China with their great firewall allows foreign mobile subscriber’s traffic to flow unaltered).

From what I see, it seems like keeping the foreign roaming agreements and the cash associated with it is more important than MITM’ing a few foreign citizens.


(Benjamin Doherty) #18

I two can second this. I spend four months of my life in Palestine. I thought I would be an outsider but Palestinians would welcome you kindly.

I too can recommend some tours and places to visit. It does not matter what your background is.


(Graham - Mental health professional) #19

Really interesting insight into the location thing, Andre. Thankyou.