‘Selfie’ – the word for a self-portrait photograph – was recently named ‘Word of the Year’ by Oxford Dictionaries. Next year it might well be ‘Nomophobia’. Nomophobia is the fear of being out of touch because someone does not have access to their mobile phone. Whilst it is easy to create new words for the digital age, nomophobia is a serious business – not least for the travelling businessperson.
If the recovery from the financial crashes of 2008 is to manifest itself into a new period of sustained growth, two things are needed: a vast increase in the number of private sector employers that can generate the jobs and wealth to allow economies to grow and an increasing growth in exports and globalisation in business. For a businessperson, home is not likely to be where all the business is any more.
International business is not easy for any company, large or small. So it is frustrating for business owners and executives when they are faced with a choice between being connected whilst overseas and facing an uncertain cost in terms of roaming charges, or remaining disconnected and out of touch with key business decisions.
Staying in touch is a business’ lifeline. Whilst the European Union has taken strides to try to reduce roaming costs, they still remain prohibitive for businesses, particularly when there is considerable uncertainty about how much data a person is using.
Within the EU the maximum charge currently allowed for mobile phone users is 38p per megabyte. But consider for a moment the typical business traveller: they use on average 250 megabytes per day, so whilst the headline cost of 38p might seem low, the reality could be a bill of £95 per day.
Many new export markets, such as China and Russia, are outside the EU and the costs explode to as much as £8 per megabyte – leaving a business person averaging 100 megabytes per day on a three day trip with a bill of £2,400.
Indeed uSwitch recently reported that a business visitor to Turkey, using Google Maps for an hour per day for a week would rack up a bill of £171 from this activity alone. Little wonder that many businesses specify that their employees cannot use phones or mobile Internet access devices abroad at all.
The alternative is using hotel Wi-Fi, but this has two disadvantages. It can also be expensive, particularly for short bursts of activity that are typical of a businessperson’s requirements. Secondly Wi-Fi is fine if you have enough ‘down time’ on a trip. But most business people try to schedule as much as possibly into overseas visits to maximise output and minimise risk. This may mean that a businessperson has an hour spare between meetings but little time in a hotel other than for sleep.
Entrepreneurs are calculated risk takers. The issue for business is when something unexpected happens and there are enough horror stories of mobile bill shock for business people to demonstrate that simply using a phone or mobile Internet access dongle abroad, whilst convenient, is prohibitively expensive.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that more and more businesses are looking at alternative ways to remain connected abroad. One solution is to pick a mobile Internet access device that allows multiple SIM cards for different countries.
As long as the business traveller is in a supported country, the device will make a connection and enable Internet and corporate email access with an almost unlimited amount of daily data – for a one off cost of around £5 per day. When you use it, you pay. When you are not travelling you do not.
These types of devices can be configured for whichever countries a business traveller is visiting, including much of Europe, the US and Canada, China and Russia. Typically the daily data bundle ranges from 500MB to 1GB – which is more than enough to complete a full day of business online through a laptop or tablet device – as well as plenty of Web surfing.
For larger companies with a significant number of international travellers or small businesses where a key director is regularly clocking up the air miles, the reassurance that the business will not suffer either from a lack of contact or from a huge data roaming bill puts control back into the traveller’s hands. The controversy over the high costs of data roaming when abroad will not go away, but there are products that enable businesses to mitigate this and know they will pay one small cost for keeping in contact wherever they are on business.