Bill shock from roaming fees continues to be a problem for many large organizations based in the U.S. Bloomberg Businessweek’s recent article America Roams Far Behind Europe reveals how Americans that don’t sign up ahead of time will have bill shock from high costs for international data use.
It’s a stark contrast in Europe, where the European Parliament called for an end to roaming surcharges by the end of 2015. And even though the European Commission is seeking to delay implementation to mid-2018, carriers have responded to government pressure by cutting roaming surcharges by more than half from 2013 to 2014. Vodaphone, the second largest global carrier, has introduced a flat daily fee of 5 Euros (approximately $8 USD) for its customers traveling in Europe, Australia, parts of Asia and the U.S.
For U.S. customers, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint continue to charge $20 per megabyte if customers don’t sign up for a special plan ahead of time. Do the math – 6 gigabytes of data for a U.S. mobile customer could cost an American subscriber traveling in Europe $120,000 if they didn’t sign up for a roaming plan. The story isn’t much better for employees with international plans: a 6 GB bundle will still cost $1,100 to $1,500 per month while abroad.
T-Mobile offers free international roaming, but many business travelers will find the 2 G speeds with this offer are too slow for web browsing and e-mails with file attachments. Most of the technological, regulatory and tax issues that made international roaming expensive in Europe are no longer valid. Nonetheless, international roaming for U.S. subscribers continues to remain high, and costs are shockingly expensive for people that don’t plan ahead.
Let’s look at some ways for enterprises to avoid this bill shock:
First, telecom managers should let their sourcing teams know of the declining roaming charges that Europeans are seeing. This information will empower negotiators to get better deals on mobile international plans based on these changes.
Second, telecom managers also need to be sure that their mobile policy continues to deal with international travel and that they have tracking mechanisms to enforce rules for employees’ international mobile voice and data consumption.
Third, telecom managers should proactively plan for situations that arise for employees that are not in corporate liable plans. Educating all employees including those in Bring your Own Device (BYOD) programs and clear policy rules on expensing BYOD charges will ensure that employees don’t attempt to pass on bill shock travels on expense reports if they fail to pre-plan for international roaming. Education of employees on roaming charges, policy, sourcing and expense management software are critical to avoiding bill shock.
The increasingly interconnected nature of international mobile coverage may mean more headaches in the short term for telecom managers, but regulatory, tax, and intergovernmental agreement trends promise a better future for international travelers’ mobile access. In the meantime, enterprises must exercise caution and proactive protection to avoid having an international trip turn into a case study in bill shock.