Despite recent EU regulation, mobile roaming charges remain eye-wateringly high and can have a real impact on businesses looking at export as a means of business growth.
By Tommi Uhari, CEO, Uros
The world may not be getting smaller, but doing business globally is increasing significantly. Despite the vast size of the home market, 98% of US exporters are small and medium sized companies. With common economic areas like the European Union growing it is becoming increasingly important for companies to view the entire globe as a marketplace rather than just their home territory.
Exporting is not easy. Whilst technology has made it more effective to develop an international presence, nothing beats face to face contact. Many businesses, particularly smaller ones, are cautious about investing thousands of pounds in travel, accommodation and subsistence when it is unclear whether there will be a material return on this investment.
But the costs of travel are only one small part of the equation. What is the cost of having staff out of the office and out of contact? Who covers their work?
Few entrepreneurs factor in the cost of staying connected when abroad. Business travellers face an unenviable choice. They can remain disconnected when travelling or face the potential of huge mobile bills on their return. As an example, if you travel from the UK to China you can expect to pay at least £25 per day for 100 MB of data. After this the cost increases sharply to £3 per megabyte. Including emails and web browsing, an average user might consume 250 megabytes of data per day to stay connected, and in this case the cost would be £475 per day.
The mobile phone networks, increasingly concerned by stories of “bill shock” from customers, have now started putting caps in place to stop users overspending when consuming data. However, if you have an important email back to the office or a quote to a potential customer to send, a cap that stops you doing so is not the answer. Indeed who really knows when they have consumed a certain number of megabytes? When you buy a flight you know the cost. When you book a hotel you know the cost. So why is there so much uncertainty with mobile communications abroad?
Even within the EU, where there has been a lot of publicity about reducing the costs of data roaming, costs can quickly get out of control. Currently the EU has a cap of €0.45 per megabyte, but our typical 250 megabyte per day user will still be facing a cost of more than €100 per day for using that allowance. It is not surprising that many companies ask their staff simply to not use data when abroad. But in the digital age this is not a realistic option. Recent research by OnePoll found that 54% of workers suffer from ‘nomophobia’ – being anxious and fearing not being in contact through the phone. For businesses, particularly smaller businesses where a key director is travelling, not having the capability to check emails – other than at high cost, is a huge business risk.
Uncertainty destroys business confidence and lack of communication – or risk of a huge cost associated with it – breeds uncertainty. It is little surprise that more and more businesses are looking at alternative ways to remain connected abroad. One way is Goodspeed, providing international business travellers with the means to reduce risk of bill shock and regain certainty over costs. Goodspeed is similar to a mobile internet access device but with one important difference – the user can insert up to nine SIM cards into the device for different countries. As long as the business traveller is in a supported country, Goodspeed 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 £5 per day. When you use it, you pay. When you are not travelling you do not.
Goodspeed can be configured for whichever countries a business traveller is visiting, including much of Europe, the US, China and Russia. Currently it is supported in almost 30 countries with new territories being added on a monthly basis. Typically the daily data bundle ranges from 500 megabytes to 1 gigabye – 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 Goodspeed enables businesses to mitigate this and know they will pay one small cost for keeping in contact wherever they are on business.