The cost of using mobile services when traveling in the European Union (EU) has fallen recently as regulators have dictated guidelines on carriers’ pricing of international calls, texts, and data services. But for most international travelers, roaming is still cost prohibitive.
And while countries like Australia and Canada have not actually reduced international roaming costs, they have recently implemented "caps" on data services. The caps force carriers to alert their customers that they will be charged international rates, alert them when they are around 80 percent of their plan, and actually shut off service when they reach their plan limit.
These are positive steps, but they highlight the need to establish a pricing model that allows people to use their mobile devices the same way whether they are in their home country or abroad.
Even though the new EU rules have been shown to reduce mobile communication costs between 11 to 36 percent, depending on the service used, keeping in touch internationally is still cost-prohibitive, especially for businesses.
For employees in the US whose jobs require international business travel, these rules change nothing. The rules only apply to the 28 countries in the EU -- so that leaves about 200 other countries where roaming charges are out of control.
And that doesn't include the intangibles associated with employees limiting or turning off their mobile devices when traveling abroad; the potential for losing business.
In a 2012 Truphone survey carried out by CCMI, we found that 40 percent of Fortune 1000 companies are forbidding or curtailing business usage of wireless devices while abroad to help manage costs. In addition, 24 percent said that they have lost business as a result of turning off their phones due to high roaming costs.
Perhaps most shocking is that nearly 37 percent of companies surveyed spend $1,000 or more per month per user on average wireless roaming costs for their international travelers, with stories of single monthly bill charges ranging from $10,000 to $200,000.
The alternatives for staying connected globally are many -- and the appeal of each varies -- with cost, coverage, and convenience the main concerns. A number of business people add-on international plans from their existing mobile carrier; some search for a free WiFi hotspot to get a data connection or make VoIP calls; many purchase a pre-paid local SIM; and others select global SIMs that can be used anywhere in the world.
As the number of mobile devices used worldwide eclipses the earth's population and technology solutions utilizing both cellular and WiFi networks come to market, the ability to offer high quality, low cost mobile services worldwide will break down today's artificial geographic boundaries -- with or without regulation.
— Pascal de Hesselle, Vice President, Marketing, Truphone