There’s currently too much apprehension about staff using mobile data while abroad, and the company then suffering unpredictable and unavoidable high charges. The fear is such that some businesses forbid data use abroad, hampering business effectiveness.
You’ve read this before – mobile devices (phones, laptops, tablets etc) that workforces are equipped with are in fact corporate ticking timebombs; they’re insecure, they’re expensive to maintain, they’re outdated as soon as you’ve bought them. But the other, often unexpected, pitfall is that as soon as these devices are taken abroad, they rack up inordinate data costs, even when apparently inactive.
International data roaming charges are a cash cow for mobile network operators and they are showing no signs of surrendering this income – despite international regulatory attempts to put a stop to ‘bill shock’.
So when employees travel abroad and use data roaming services, the costs they incur are often far higher than any mobile phone contract budget. The problem is that the degree by which they are higher is impossible to predict, frustrating Financial Directors (FD) keen to control cost.
The only alternative option open to them is to mandate restrictions on data usage when employees are abroad. They will try to mitigate against the spikes in costs with inconvenient mobile data usage policies; typically insisting on a reliance on Wi-Fi access rather than data roaming.
In so doing, FDs are earning resentment from other departments and their departmental director colleagues. The policies are resented – often vocally – by other managers as they constrain their ability to meet targets, perform as required and generally grow the business. It’s a far cry from the image promised in so many mobile ads: a well-dressed executive filing reports from a European café, relaxed with an espresso to hand.
Finally, employees – the sharp end of the business – are suffering from the conflicting pressures of delivering performance, but not at too high a cost. But how do they know what too high a cost is? Data size limits are too opaque – how big is a typical email, and what is the impact when a 4MB attachment is sent? When is the end of the month and when does an employee’s “data ration” start again?
Unsurprisingly, even without mobile data usage policies being enforced, many employees won’t dare use their phones abroad and will at best seek out unsecure, unreliable wi-fi hotspots – a highly unsatisfactory solution. It’s just not acceptable for businesses to still have to choose between unreliable mobile data services and unpredictable data rates when abroad, or the productivity penalties of seeking out a local Wi-Fi hotspot that’s slow, inherently localised and often expensive. That’s not a choice.
Whichever option is taken, the business suffers – financially or in performance. As the government tells us so frequently: we are an important part of a wider global economy, particularly the US and Asia. So businesses cannot afford to hold themselves in readiness for years while governments and operators fight it out to decide on how to provide an acceptable solution to international roaming.
While these political efforts are going on, seemingly endlessly, UK business needs a multi-national mobile data solution now. Businesses need alternative wireless internet solutions that combat the current inadequacies in domestic and global mobile data provision and that provide predictable, low costs and reliable connection. This will mean far greater employee productivity while on the move – the original intention of enterprise mobility.