Moaning about roaming, whinging about Wi-Fi

Stephen Pritchard

Do businesses count how much they spend on mobile data? And do they calculate how much of that spending is really necessary?

One of the good things about covering the IT industry is the chance to travel, even if that travel is often to Amsterdam or Frankfurt. One of the bad things is trying to keep in contact with the office from the road.

The trials posed by international roaming have been covered here, and elsewhere on IT PRO, plenty of times before.

Certainly there are issues with roaming, apart from the price; the experience is still not as seamless as it should be, even within networks that operate under the same brand. It is only a personal observation, but 3G dongles in particular seem to throw a wobbly when given the challenge of working on an overseas network.

But in an ideal world, there should be no reason to use such devices abroad at all, because everywhere has cheap, or free, Wi-Fi. Use a VPN connection back to the corporate network, and a modicum of common sense, and Wi-Fi hotspots can be safe enough for most business users. The issue is really one of price, and (in)convenience.

Some organisations have taken steps to make Wi-Fi, if not easy, then at least cheap. British Airways provides free access in its lounges.

It can still be a struggle to convince a smart phone to connect to a hotspot that requires a password neither my BlackBerry nor the Nokia Eseries I travel with makes it a super-slick experience but with a bit of patience, it can be done.

The real problems occur once you land at the other end. Hotel rates for Wi-Fi in Europe are verging on the criminal, and in some cases it can actually be cheaper to use a 3G connection, with roaming, than to pay for Wi-Fi. One European business hotel charges 10 for 30 minutes (yes minutes) of access.