Category

Data Roaming

How the financial services industry can save on roaming costs

Users of personal mobile phones are no doubt familiar with the notoriously high roaming costs associated with accessing the internet outside their home countries. These charges can be just as much of a burden to corporate users travelling or working abroad.

With the atmosphere of the global economy as turbulent as ever – and the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions, lending uncertainty to an already unpredictable market – institutions in the financial services industry have been tightening their belts and looking for ways of streamlining their operations to weather the storm.

Evolutions in service delivery and changing customer expectations require organisations to have a more global presence. On one level, this can mean having branch offices in far flung locations, while on another, breaking into new markets or establishing an international branding identity may necessitate in-person travel to spread the word about the products and services an institution has to offer.

Telecommunication has a role to play in this, with banks and finance houses facing the challenge of providing for and managing remote and mobile workforces, while simultaneously keeping costs down. Roaming costs can be a major contributor to this financial burden, so in this article we’ll be considering what measures organisations in the financial services industry can implement to alleviate this problem.

Different Charges, Wherever You Roam

Though member states of the European Union have imposed a capped and sliding scale of charges for mobile roaming within the region – with a pledge to abolish roaming costs entirely, within the current calendar year – transitional charges still apply.

Outside the EU, charges may be imposed on an ad hoc, local, or regional basis – and data roaming costs in many parts of the world can be notoriously high, or unpredictable.

Finance institutions operating in high-cost areas need to be especially vigilant as to how their expatriate users access the internet and web-based services.

Roaming Costs, Hidden in the Background

Mobile applications that update themselves automatically or call upon location or other cloud services in the background can be an unbudgeted drain on mobile accounts, as users may not even be aware that these apps are using data access.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) policies need to take these factors into account, and administrators should draw up lists of those apps known to require background data access – and put in place procedures for disabling these apps for international users who might otherwise incur huge roaming costs.

No Free Lunch, with Wi-Fi

Free public Wi-Fi is a viable option for private phone users looking to cut costs by avoiding international roaming charges. But conventional security wisdom advises against using hotspots for any online activity involving user logins or sensitive transactions.

So for workers in the financial services industry who have to deal on a daily basis with corporate and customer data and credentials, free Wi-Fi services should be considered off-limits for business purposes.

Data Bundles, Or Add-Ons

“Add-ons” or data bundles wrap a limited data allowance in a fixed-price package – typically with provisions for international roaming. Deals for enterprise users can be very economical, so organisations in the financial services industry should consider bundles as a serious option for reducing their roaming costs.

Decommissioning Voicemail

Accessing voicemail services while roaming is one of the major factors driving up costs, as premium rates typically apply. Consultations should be made with mobile network providers and IT administrators to give users the information they need to disable voicemail while roaming.

Apps with Offline Capabilities

Having users download apps with offline capabilities before they travel is another way of limiting their reliance on potentially budget-draining international data services. Mapping, navigation, and even currency conversion apps are available with offline functionality, and lists of approved software may be drawn up and made available to workers within the organisation.

Region-Specific Phone Numbers

Having a phone number that’s local to the region of your operations avoids international roaming costs by attracting local network rates.

Purchasing local SIM cards is one option. Using a virtual SIM or virtual phone service provider is another. For example, Swytch provides its subscribers with UK-registered business mobile phone numbers, which may be assigned to personal smartphones and individual or corporate accounts.

Outsourcing Region-Specific Personnel

An alternative to hiring expatriate staff in offshore locations is the recruitment of locally based talent within specific regions. As well as their knowledge of cultural and procedural norms for the area, such workers will also have local phone numbers and accounts, eliminating the need for international roaming costs to be incurred.

Steering Customers to Centralised or Lower Cost Channels

While there may be circumstances where it’s necessary to have a temporary or longer-term physical presence in an offshore location, the predominance of online commerce makes it possible to reduce actual physical interactions between customers and financial services outlets by centralising resources and diverting consumers to lower-cost channels such as eCommerce portals, and online banking services.

Moves to these channels reflect a larger trend in cost-cutting within the financial services industry that has also seen the closure and consolidation of physical branch offices.

Cloud-Based Alternatives to Travel

Online resources can also eliminate the physical need for travelling. Virtual phone service providers like Swytch are powered by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecommunications networks, which augment telephony with collaboration services, data and document handling via web-based applications and portals, and offer audio and video conferencing and web meeting facilities as an alternative to in-person gatherings.

With mobile workers (including the staff of financial services institutions) now constituting almost 40% of the global working population, and with cost-cutting at the forefront of so much of enterprise planning and priorities, savings on international data roaming costs are an element of the balance sheet equation that shouldn’t be ignored, or treated lightly.

If you’d like to learn more about how a virtual phone service provider can help your financial services company save on roaming costs, get in touch with the telecoms experts at Swytch today.

 

How to avoid data roaming charges with your business mobile

These days, a business mobile phone is likely to be your constant companion. As a business owner looking to expand your market base and make contacts in the globalised environment of today, you may be required to make trips outside your home country or even continent. Then there are those pesky holidays we must all take from time to time, to avoid keeling over from stress and over-work.

In all cases, you’ll likely be tempted to bring your mobile phone(s) with you – along with your associated business lines – just in case of that vital call, or that crucial email or text message.

The problem is, using your phone to access the internet via mobile data networks other than your own attracts “roaming” charges in overseas territories – and these can soon add up to a staggering sum, if you’re not careful.

Know the Potential Costs

Before you travel, take some time to gather due diligence from the internet and other sources on the current levels of roaming charges that apply in the areas you intend to visit.

Within the European Union (EU), data roaming charges are scheduled to be scrapped in June of this year – but in the meantime, an amended scale of charges still applies. And in the years leading up to 2022, a sliding scale of data caps will be in effect in all EU member states.

Of course, with Britain on the road to leaving the EU, entitlements to roaming charge reductions may be in a fluid state throughout the “Brexit” process – so if you’re a UK business traveller, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the political and economic ramifications during this period.

Territories outside of Europe will have their own rates and regulations to consider and fit into your travel plans.

Get Clarification from Your Provider

Empirical figures aside, there may be specific conditions applying to your business mobile account and network carrier. So, before you leave, make sure to contact them and get a detailed run-down of your phone provider’s stance on data roaming.

There may (for example) be special packages or surcharges you can pay for, to assure certain charge levels or data allowances in a given period. Your provider may also have special arrangements with partner and affiliate networks operating in the areas you intend to visit.

Queries and technical support may also be an issue while travelling, so be sure to ask about terms and conditions for these.

Choose Your Service Wisely

If you’re unhappy with your current levels of service and existing conditions for business mobile data roaming – or if your research turns up some better alternatives – you might consider opening an account with a different business mobile provider.

It’s a competitive market, and there are a lot of networks and options to choose from. Some careful shopping may reveal a package that’s more in line with your expectations.

Buy A Data Bundle

Having clarified the pricing issues and settled on a network carrier that you like, you now have the option of buying a data bundle. This may typically provide a fixed charge rate for mobile data use, or a capped data allowance. Again, some diligent shopping and consideration of the terms (what happens if you exceed the allowances, etc.) should reveal which package best suits the requirements of your journey.

Download Maps & Travel Data Early – Or Offline

Don’t wait till you get to your destination to stock up on guidebooks and travel maps. Do this before you leave (with the option to download relevant maps, documents and applications using your home network) – and take advantage of the various options for gaining access to the data you need offline.

For example, Google Maps now lets you save maps to your device for offline reference, and there are third-party travel apps with a range of options for offline use.

Check Your Default Data Settings

With your infrastructure and services settled on, your next job is to configure the hardware so that your business mobile consumes less data and doesn’t do anything sneaky behind your back. Here’s a check-list:

  • Make sure that automatic data roaming is switched off: Apple’s iOS and many newer model Android smartphones will do this by default, but it’s worth verifying for yourself from the Settings menus.
  • Deny apps the use of background data: This will ensure that the only applications capable of accessing the internet are the ones you’re currently using.
  • Disable automatic updates using mobile data: You may have to spend some time on this, as third-party applications may currently be configured to update themselves automatically, in addition to the native apps that make up your mobile operating system.
  • Set all automatic updates to Wi-Fi: If a nominal charge is made for Wi-Fi network use overseas, this will be considerably less than the cost of the mobile data stream.

Monitor Your Data Usage

You should have the means to record how much data you’re using on your business mobile on a real-time basis, to help manage costs and stay within any pre-set limits. This may take the form of a dedicated phone number on your network, or a data monitoring app – of which there are several available in the app stores, for no charge.

Use Wi-Fi If Possible

Typically, business mobile users aren’t charged anything for downloads or internet browsing done on Wi-Fi connections while roaming – though some hotspots may impose a nominal charge for connecting to their network.

Visit Mobile-Optimised Websites

Many (though arguably not enough) websites are optimised for mobile access, with pages and graphics scaled for rapid loading and reduced data use on smaller screens.

The mobile versions of popular sites may have a special prefix (e.g., mobile.PopularWebsite.com) or suffix (e.g., www.PopularWebsite.mobi), and you can specify these as you type the URL into a search box.

Disable Voicemail

Outside the EU (with its rate-capping policy), charge rates for checking voicemail while roaming are notoriously high – so you might want to consider disabling this function on your travels. Your service provider and the specific features of your device should give you the guidance you need on how to do this.

Get A MiFi

What’s a MiFi? Well, it’s a wireless modem which you can buy to set up a personal/ local hotspot for up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices. Using one can give substantial savings over local network data rates abroad.

Use A Local Network

Speaking of local (in the sense of “in country”) mobile networks, buying and installing a SIM card from a network carrier operating in your location can deal with mobile data use issues at a single stroke. Cards are typically sold on a time plan (e.g. 30 days) or “pay as you go” basis.

You will however need to “unlock” your phone from its home network, to do this. Contact your service provider to discover whether this is an option on your account, and the procedure to follow, if it is.

Use Virtual Phone System Features

If your business mobile line uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, or is provided by a cloud-hosted service, you may be able to take advantage of the features of a virtual phone system. For example, Swytch lets you assign UK-registered business mobile numbers to your personal phone – with business telephony features including a voicemail inbox, associated with each.

Messages and calls to these numbers can be forwarded to voicemail, and sent as sound file attachments to email – which you can download using Wi-Fi.

Use A Data Compression App

A dedicated class of mobile apps has grown up, addressing concerns about data usage, security, and privacy on Wi-Fi and mobile data networks. These apps may include a Virtual Private Network (VPN) option, for encrypting and securing your internet access. And for data roaming purposes, they’ll typically include a data compression function, for optimising data streams and compacting files in transit – which uses less data, and saves you money.

Switch Off Your Phone

If you’re on holiday, give some serious consideration to not using your phone unless you absolutely must — and make a conscious decision to narrow down the list of situations where you “need” your business mobile.

If you’re on a commercial trip, putting your phone into Airplane Mode (with access to Wi-Fi, but no cellular or data) is another option that will allow you to receive voicemail communications over Wi-Fi, and to toggle your data roaming access as you need it.

If your business mobile service employs a virtual phone system or virtual business numbering like Swytch, this option can free you from the anxiety of having to tot up excessive charges for data roaming.