Bill Shock for Mobile Workers as Data Roaming Charges Mount

Hefty mobile data roaming charges are making mobile workers more cautious about using business-critical applications.

Mobile workers experience shockingly high roaming charges in the course of the year, with the average cost of their monthly data roaming bill hitting $1,089, according to the quarterly Mobile Workforce Report published by mobility services provider iPass. The report, which was based on a survey of nearly 1,200 mobile enterprise employees worldwide, found 43 percent of mobile workers had experienced an expensive data roaming bill in the past year and, on average, encountered a high data roaming bill 1.4 times a year.

In an effort to combat sky-high costs, 23 percent of mobile workers surveyed said they always turn off data roaming when they travel, and 81 percent said data roaming prices are too high. Fear of bill shock is causing mobile workers to be more cautious when using critical applications like email and Web browsing when roaming, and 80 percent of survey respondents said they preferred using WiFi networks over cellular networks for mobile application use.

"For today's mobile worker, connectivity is oxygen. Prohibitively high mobile data roaming charges are killing mobile worker productivity and people are afraid to turn on their cellular devices," Evan Kaplan, CEO at iPass, said in prepared remarks. "Enterprise IT and mobile operators have the power to keep mobile workers productive and efficient by providing seamless access to critical data and rich applications on WiFi as a complement to cellular data plans at a tiny fraction of the cost, maybe then people will then turn on their smartphones while roaming."

The vast majority (85 percent) said they want their companies to provide a WiFi access plan for their out-of-office use, but only 17 percent of mobile workers said they don't know if they are being overcharged for roaming charges because their company pays the bill. Of those who would pay, 80 percent of mobile workers surveyed said $1 to $2 per megabyte would be a reasonable price for mobile data roaming.

The report also found that 25 percent of businesses are still failing to demand security features on their employees' devices, which could lead to security breaches and loss of data. The results indicate corporate security measures have not kept pace with bring-your-own-device initiatives, which are finding strong support in businesses of all sizes, but are causing headaches for IT departments. Nearly half (48 percent) are further compromising security as a result of bypassing IT restrictions to enable them to access corporate data.