There's no doubt that we are seeing a strong trend towards mobile working. Just look around on any train airport lounge or motorway café, and you will see people absorbed in work on their laptops or tablet computers while they are out and about. Time spent waiting has become time spent working. The tablet computer is fast gaining ground on the laptop, because it's smaller and lighter to carry and generally cooler, with its cameras and entertainment built in.
Analysts predicted that 1 billion smart phones would be sold worldwide, during 2013. The trend is towards more and more of these being used for business, with the phenomenon that IT departments call "Bring Your Own Device" where often employees bring their personal tablet computer or smart phone to work, because they prefer it to the technology provided by their employer. Employers are embracing this, because they may not have to finance the purchase of the equipment themselves. Smartphones and tablets are not just for voice calls, they carry email, data and video as well, so they are operating at a whole new level of mobile phone charges.
The downside of using personal technology when you travel is the cost – because the mobile operators are charging for "roaming" calls and data, and these costs can really mount up if you depend upon a mobile phone to keep in touch with the office, and the charges for voice and data step up to a new level once you leave the shores of home.
Many people now own three devices – a laptop, a mobile phone which might be a smartphone, and a tablet computer. All of these can be used for business, and all are capable of receiving email and browsing the Internet, which means that if you are working whilst travelling, the charges for all of the calls and data can be something of a shock when the bill arrives at the end of the month.
However, there is a way for businesses to take action to control these mobile call charges. It's a concept known as a "Mobile Gateway". A mobile gateway works on the principle of reducing your call charges by routing your phone calls via the lowest cost route. If you are able to route some of the calls via your own corporate network connections, these calls could effectively become free of charge.
The Mobile Gateway is a device installed within your corporate network, linking into the PBX and so integrating all of the mobile phones into the corporate telephone system, making them behave more like extensions on the main telephone system.
If you are able to route your "roaming" calls over your company's own private network, there can be large savings to be made when employees travel overseas. You may also be able to make significant savings on the costs of your company's mobile-to-mobile calls.
If the business has more than one office, linked via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with Wi-Fi on the premises, it should be possible to route mobile calls over this network instead of using the mobile carrier's GSM or 3G networks.
Most of the main PBX manufacturers make a Mobile Gateway, so it should be possible to find a solution for every company. The newest products are also able to integrate the much loved iPhone and iPad into the corporate network to create a modern hot-desking solution. Once a Mobile Gateway is in place you should see a big reduction in the mobile phone charges for calls and data.
Installing a Mobile Gateway is just one step towards controlling mobile call charges for employees who travel. Taking the idea a stage further, it may be possible to eliminate desk phones and DECT phones for some employees and route all of their calls directly to their mobile phone. The Mobile Gateway provides the correct structure to implement this idea. Another option worth exploring is simply to negotiate a better tariff with your mobile service provider.
However, the pattern of savings for each company will depend upon their employees' individual patterns of travel, and whether they travel overseas or locally. It will also depend upon the kind of phones they have and how they use them. We would recommend undertaking a proper audit of your mobile phone usage and costs before making any decisions to purchase new equipment.
The author, Tom Perry, is Marketing Director of Connect Communications in London. The company are Unified Communications specialists and provide services integrating voice, data and mobile networks.For more information please see www.connectcs.com