SmartPhone adoption is growing rapidly, according to a 2011 Gartner Group study on SmartPhones, in 2010, 120 million smartphones were sold. In 2011, 172 million will be sold, and they project that in 2016 1 billion SmartPhones will be sold. According to a 2011 study by Neilson group, 43% of mobile phone users now have SmartPhones, and they predict that by 2015 that number will increase to 93%.
SmartPhones usage is growing rapidly, and people are becoming more interested in getting the most out of their SmartPhones, both professionally and personally. This is rapidly driving the displacement of BlackBerry, in favor of the easier to use, more powerful and personally appealing Apple, Android and Windows phones. As users change their phone usage and move to these new platforms, we are seeing a massive increase in data usage.
In a 2011 iPass Mobile Workforce report,
- 41% of employees with company provided phones have received a surprise roaming charge
- 28% had charges over $100
- 9% had charges over $500
- 64% say it happens regularly
Within a phones local area code, data usage isn’t a huge problem. Carriers are now including a reasonable amount of bandwidth with their plans, and modern phones now use available Wi-Fi connections whenever possible instead of using the cellular data network. Where this does become a problem is when the phone roams into a different provider or area code. Data roaming is still extremely expensive. International data roaming (outside of Canada and US) with Telus (http://www.telusmobility.com/en/BC/International/TELUS-3Gplus-D-roaming-rates-internat.shtml) is $25 per MB. That’s about $375 to watch a 2 minute YouTube video, or about 50-100 emails. Data roaming in the US can be costly too. About 3 months ago I was in the US and turned my data roaming on (it’s on by default, but I keep mine turned off) for less than 5 minutes to lookup Burger King on the Google Maps app on my iPhone and zoom in so I could read the street names. I then promptly turned data roaming back off. This small action cost $11.75 in data roaming. Now obviously that’s not a big deal, but it would have cost me $125+ in Mexico or elsewhere in the world. This puts into perspective the financial risk, and awkward conversations with employees that organizations are starting to face.
There are two key ways to address the problem of Data Roaming. The first option is to have employees use their personal devices for work and offer them a monthly allowance for anticipated corporate use of the phone. This puts the responsibility for data roaming and overages on the user and takes the risk away from the company. The problems with this approach is that many users have come to expect their employer to provide their mobile phones, and secondly (perhaps most importantly) the company loses control over the security of the mobile device which has an increasing amount of corporate data and access to corporate networks/systems.
The second solution is to prevent data roaming on corporate-owned devices. Data roaming can be turned on/off from the settings app on most phones, there is no native way to prevent this setting from being re-enabled on purpose or accidentally due to an update. To prevent data roaming completely you need a policy-based management system such as our Mobile Device Management & Support solution that automatically ensures the settings are correct and prevents the user from changing the setting.