iPass WiFi Cost Index Gives Tally of Travelers Staying Connected

When employees travel, hard-to-control connectivity costs rise, says iPass, providing details. Its solution? Partner with iPass.

iPass, which offers travelers and commuters a reliable option for connecting on the go, has released a Wi-Fi Cost Index—a report that outlines the expenses businesses face when workers don't have a reliable option to connect to while on the go.

Consider a worker on an international business trip, and the connectivity solutions she may cobble together at the airport, on the flight, at the hotel or in a cafe before a meeting.

"An organization's true mobility costs can be quite difficult to pinpoint, with connectivity coming from a variety of sources," Kathryn Weldon, a mobility practice lead with research firm Current Analysis, said in a Nov. 4 statement, commenting on the report.

iPass CEO Evan L. Kaplan added that the Index is "meant to be a resource for organizations" to better understand their mobility costs and support their mobile workers, "whose performance drives business results."

While in past reports iPass presented information in terms of the megabytes consumed on a trip, the current study addresses the multiple ways of paying for connectivity and presents WiFi costs in terms of time and 3G/4G in terms of data consumed.

The report features two examples—a U.S. worker, Tom, who travels domestically and internationally, and Joann, a Europe-based manager who travels inside and out of the European Union (EU). Specifically, it details the connectivity choices each makes, and the fees they incur, when they go on a four-day trip—the global average length for a business trip, according to an iPass data-roaming survey.

Both Tom and Joann are careful about their data usage, and check for WiFi options before turning to cellular. Both also wind up connecting their laptops, tablets and smartphones in four ways: using domestic data, and staying within a 3GB limit; using international data, and staying within a 1GB limit; using WiFi session passes, generally by the hour; and while traveling to his destination using WiFi day passes, purchased at the hotel at check-in.

Tom's data-roaming usage is broken down by how often he uses WiFi or 3G/4G, and whether it's while heading to his destination, at his destination or heading home. The costs are calculated to be $1.62 in the first segment of travel, $154.64 in the second and $25.01 in the third, for a grand total of $181.27 for his trip to Europe.

When he travels to Asia, the total rises by less than $2.

Joann's connectivity costs, when staying within the EU, total $120.25. When she heads to the United States, her costs near $210, and when she goes to Asia, they're close to $225.

The examples include a number of variables about the users and their environments, but they still offer a fair assessment of the costs that can accrue during travel.

There are some free hotspots out there, of course, and free is becoming an expectation, but many free connections are frustrating, says iPass.

"According to the iPass Q3 2013 Mobile Workforce Report, 82 percent of mobile workers surveyed found free WiFi to be limited, slow and unreliable. ... Business travelers, when faced with such difficulty, often resort to using cellular data roaming, so the session isn't free at all."

Next is the part where iPass makes its sales pitch. It has partnered with hundreds of WiFi providers around the world, so WiFi access is available to business travelers on planes and in airports, hotels, restaurants and business venues.

Where Tom accrued his total of $181.27, iPass estimates that its $60 pass for unlimited usage on all devices could have offered a savings of 67 percent.

Joann's EU-to-EU trip connection costs could have been reduced by 50 percent, and her trip to Asia by 73 percent.

Again, iPass acknowledges the variables involved, such as the number of devices that are traveled with, the habits of travelers and the different costs between regions.

"By eliminating varying data limits and multiple, complex pricing plans," according to the report, "iPass enables business traveler productivity, gives visibility into mobility costs and provides a simple and accurate way to predict these costs, no matter where employees travel."