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Q&A: The challenges of mobile data roaming

T.C. Seow | June 6, 2014
Matias Heilala, head of strategy and business development at Vodafone Global Enterprise, Asia and Africa, shares his thoughts about safe and sound choices for mobile data roaming in the region.

Matias Heilala, Vodafone
Photo: Matias Heilala.

For business executives travelling on assignment, the need for local mobile data access in destination cities doesn't require further elaboration, especially when one wants to be in touch constantly via email and other online communication methods. We talk to Matias Heilala, head of strategy and business development at Vodafone Global Enterprise, Asia and Africa, to understand more about the safe and sound choices available.

Q: Busy executives certainly need to stay connected at all times, and even more so when travelling. Telcos already offer a range of cost-saving plans on data roaming but it is still considered too expensive. What advice do you have to help save costs further?

Heilala: When it comes to data roaming, there is nothing that is going to work better than ensuring you have the best data plan from your operator which will support the way your business operates. This can, and should be, supported by additional solutions such as a robust telecoms management service which can monitor expenditure and suggest appropriate changes to optimise usage.

Practices such as buying a local SIM when arriving in foreign countries are a double-edged sword. At first glance it can look like a cheaper option but there are many pitfalls, from security concerns around re-used SIMs, to the complication of having to let all your contacts know that you have a different number for the duration of your trip.

Apart from BlackBerry devices, none as far as I know will offer an "all you can consume" data plan. Are there alternatives?

Data plans are provided by the operator and not the handset manufacturer. "All you can consume" plans will come from operators and there are a range of options available. What is important is to look at what it is you need your data plan to do and ensure that you have a plan from your operator which is going to support the way you do business.

Why should one be concerned about mobile roaming charges if one workable solution is to purchase a local SIM-enabled broadband service to go with one's mobile device?

Purchasing a local SIM may, at first glance, appear an attractive option but it can be more complex, more risky and less efficient than other options. The following should be considered:

  • Sourcing for devices and SIMs locally can be time consuming and frustrating. Both of which could have a negative impact on the outcome of the business travel
  • Obtaining a local SIM means business travellers will need to proactively notify business and personal contacts of the temporary number
  • From a security aspect, if local SIMs are recycled, new users can potentially have access to past calls and texts
  • Organisations have no clear visibility on spend with local SIMs and in turn, no control


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