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.
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.