The wireless industry is taking aim at the international business traveler this month more than ever. Today marks a big win for those battling high roaming fees in the EU. Vodafone announced a flat-rate plan for its data users when they roam in other countries. Of course, it only applies to the users when they're roaming on other Vodafone-owned networks, but it's at least a step in the right direction.
Last week we saw a major brand put its marketing force behind an offering for international travelers: National Geographic Society. The magazine publisher is hawking a prepaid mobile service for those looking to travel to remote regions of the globe, called Talk Abroad Travel Phone. Rates for the service could climb to as high as $2.70 a minute in remote areas, but the idea of having a phone that works on more than 100 carrier networks worldwide is comforting to the international traveler. But who are the potential buyers of this service: Photographers, environmentalists, school children and anthropologists?
Enterprise IT managers often bemoan the difficulties of finding a streamlined solution for their employees that travel worldwide. Nils Weber, head of connectivity/collaboration architecture and strategy at Novartis Pharma, says that even if he provides some of his executives with a world phone that allows them to roam worldwide and make phone calls, the solutions are extremely costly because there is no way to control the roaming fees.
It sounds like National Geographic can't solve the roaming fee problem and I'd argue that Vodafone has come to market with just a partial solution since its new plan only works on its own networks. Perhaps only the EU can solve the issue: It has been working on it for some time now, but many believe Vodafone's maneuvering today is a direct result of the EU's pressure on roaming fee practices in the region. Since there's an obvious need, it appears that the pressure may finally be working. -Brian