As the internet and cloud services enables small and medium businesses to go global easier, faster and leaner than ever before, one thing has remained unchanged: expensive roaming data. The SMB needs modern ways to go global without breaking the bank in telecom expenses, so we’ve put together five super-effective ways SMBs can roam lean.
Carriers Are SMB-Unfriendly
It’s a counterintuitive approach–the more businesses that rely on lean internet solutions to go international, the more expensive it becomes for employees to access those technologies while abroad. SMBs are not positioned to negotiate better contracts and discounts with carriers. For instance, AT&T won’t even negotiate business package roaming terms under 150 devices.
SMBs and the Enterprise are spending upwards of 20% of their monthly telecom bill in just roaming fees.* U.S. businesses alone spend billions of dollars annually. If things stay the way they are, network providers are set to make a cool $42 billion in roaming fee revenues by 2018, according to Juniper Research.
That’s an astronomical cost for data and voice, and it hurts small businesses the most.
Roam With Unlocked Devices
Unlocked devices are a great way to get around roaming fees, but it takes some effort to make it work. U.S. businesses are at a big disadvantage when it comes to unlocked devices in comparison to EU countries. For instance, if you or your business purchased phones on an AT&T contract, your devices are locked to work only with that specific carrier until the contract has expired — or in the unlikely scenario that you paid full retail price for each device.
However, AT&T does offer the option to unlock phones for international travel up to five times per year. Once the typical two-year contract term is finished, you can also request to have the device unlocked permanently. Other U.S. carriers offer similar services, but they won’t do it automatically — you have to contact a representative (per device) and wait for the changes to be made on their side.
The benefit is that once unlocked, your devices can use prepaid SIM cards in whichever country you visit — off of the roaming network charges.
Pros: Extremely cheap prepaid data and voice options while abroad.
Cons: An unlocked phone implies you’ll switch the SIM card out while traveling — which means your contacts can’t get in touch with you at your typical mobile number, nor will they recognize your international number. It also requires you to pay a visit to a local carrier every time you arrive somewhere.
Go With Smart Roaming Apps
If you can’t beat the device or network provider costs, then it’s time to find an app. When a business wants to deploy data and voice cheaply to a mobile workforce, apps are the most immediate and effective solution. Roaming apps help companies avoid costly travel — and they don’t require any huge setups or implementation processes.
Roaming alert apps like Dial IQ intercept and redirect communications to free options over Wi-Fi, or integrate with preferred and industry recommended VoIPs. It alerts users when they are making costly roaming choices, and helps businesses see exactly how much they saved on roaming data volumes and international calls and SMS.
Most importantly these tools are about education and awareness. Apps that help your users connect company-preferred platforms while traveling help them reduce roaming overages.
Pros: Easy to deploy and save money immediately, saves roaming costs up-front and integrates with contacts and company VoIPs.
Cons: Apps don’t prevent costs at the network level, so users must heed the notifications and make conscious decisions to contribute to saving on roaming charges.
Scaled-Down Telecom Expense Management
The Enterprise and Fortune 500 have ways of managing their telecom spend, usually in the form of complex TEM software, which handles automated inventory, reverse auction negotiations, and fancy things that the SMB generally doesn’t have the bandwidth (or budget) to implement.
But managing telecom spend is crucial for individual entrepreneurs, small and medium businesses to work abroad while keeping costs down. For the SMB, a seamless experience to determine a cheaper roaming option and concierge services are the more affordable and most powerful tools for cutting costs.
Dial IQ for instance, provides users with roaming subscription and prepaid options via VoIP. The communications platform also offers peer-to-peer messaging at no cost over WiFi. Users can create localized numbers and redirects calls to avoid incurring roaming charges on the home network. Localized numbers also let groups or teams communicate over their local numbers or WiFi.
For the enterprise, Dial IQ offers travel notifications to both the end-user and their manager at home, creating an opportunity to notify their local carriers and adjust their rates before charges are incurred.
Pros: Concierge technology that offer seamless call options are extremely simple to deploy, add new users, and start roaming immediately. Users can even configure changes while abroad.
Cons: Assistive roaming technologies and localized presence all require WiFi to some extent, and localized number technology is not always available in all countries.
Managing Costs With Mobile VoIP Technology
Your roaming bill can all boil down to your company’s mobile VoIP technology. Services like Skype, Citrix or Jabber all offer SMS, video and conferencing tools over WiFi.
Whichever service you choose will affect how your business roams. For instance, Skype Business doesn’t allow users to transfer an existing number to their account, but an inexpensive mobile VoIP service will. Skype also doesn’t allow a user to call emergency services (like 911), while a mobile VoIP does (it’s linked directly to the smart device).
Pros: Mobile VoIP services save you a ton of money on international calls — best if you have a salesforce that makes use of voice as it makes calls abroad (and calling abroad from home) cheaper.
Cons: It’s not always easy to find a mobile VoIP that’s perfect for your company; you’ll have to shop around for rates, countries, device support, and deployability for starters.