Almost every business owner has felt the pain of roaming charges. Sometimes these exorbitant fees come as a result of conducting new business in untapped, faraway markets. Sometimes, it's just human error – an employee forgetting to turn off their phone when abroad. In still other instances, roaming fees are simply part of worklife. For example, the entrepreneur who will still be forced to be available even while on an overseas vacation.
Regardless of the cause, roaming fees can be really significant budget eaters. Research firm Gartner estimates that some larger companies can spend as much as $20-million a year on these charges.
The problem is, racking up extra fees are an unavoidable price of doing (overseas) business in the current telecom landscape. Faster 4G technology means that, if left unmanaged, today's scary roaming bills will become even more frightening.
What can an entrepreneur do to lessen the pain? Thankfully, there are some remedies. Broadly, these fall into several categories: Training, monitoring, budgeting, and company policy. Below are seven options for any business to consider:
1. Prohibit ad hoc cellular roaming amongst employees. Roaming charges are sneaky and pernicious. Without a permission-based approach they tend to "just happen." Policy can be designed to prevent these occurrences from happening.
2. Limit data usage to secure Wi-Fi access points or wireless local area networks. The idea behind doing this is simple: Get your staff's roaming data off the cellular network. It can limit their productivity but for some companies this is a good option.
3. Implement a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system that can deactivate cellular roaming under specified policies. This way, when an employee happens to show up in Australia and start making calls on their company-owned phone you can be notified and switch off their roaming privileges before the bill gets nasty.
4. Look into a global Wi-Fi service. This can really lessen cellular usage. Some carriers provide a downloadable app that will identify nearby carrier-owned or affiliated Wi-Fi hot spots. Definitely worth a look if you've got a workforce that travels a lot to overseas destinations.
5. Use fixed mobile convergence services. The underlying idea for fixed mobile convergence is pretty neat: With just one phone number, you can be reached on any of your communications devices. You'd be able to begin a call on a landline, then take that call with you on your cell phone and go anywhere else (provided there's actual cell service) without hanging up.
6. Check out third party managed network providers. Most travelers have heard of Boingo or iPass. These players sometimes offer very cost effective solutions and/or flat rate international data plans.
7. VoIP for communication internal communication. Deploying a Voice over IP solution, either as part of your service contract or implemented by a third-party solution, can reduce cellular network calls and save you big money.
Finding a solution to costly roaming fees begins with proper analysis of your billings. At the end of the day any of the above – or combination thereof – might be the answer for your business. Test things out and see what best suits your needs.
Chris Thierry, is president and founder of Etelesolv, a provider of telecom and IT expense management software.