CXO

CIO Jury: Data roaming rip-off slammed

IT bosses warn they may have to restrict use of mobile data services.

IT bosses have slammed mobile operators over the excessive roaming charges and confusing tariffs for data download services, warning that it could become too expensive for staff to use.

An investigation by silicon.com's sister site ZDNet UK earlier this week exposed the massive roaming charges levied by mobile phone operators on users who download data when abroad with charges of up to £20 per megabyte over GPRS or 3G data card services from abroad.

But getting an unexpected nasty mobile bill is not just a consumer issue and over half (seven) of silicon.com's 12-man CIO Jury IT director user panel said high roaming charges are increasingly becoming a problem for businesses - with the IT budget taking a direct hit in many cases.

Duncan Scott, CIO at Sea Containers, said: "Existing mobile bills are too complex to read quickly. Providers need to simplify tariffs structures and make charges more transparent. The present 'nasty surprise' bills will stifle growth and could lead to senior management labelling mobile data services as too expensive for everyday use."

That sentiment was echoed by Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK, who said it is difficult to get straight answers out of mobile operators on the ins and outs of usage abroad.

He said: "Mobile data download cost is something that will be part of the IT budget here from next year and it will be a case of mitigating exposure by limiting access to key staff and doing our best to negotiate a good contract with our mobile provider."

Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, said the largest part of his organisation's mobile phone bill is roaming costs on voice, rather than data, calls.

He said: "It is difficult to find out the exact tariffs and difficult to negotiate better tariffs for roaming costs as vendors state that the largest part of the roaming cost is from another operator."

But Paul Broome, IT director at 192.com, said Wi-Fi hotspots are the preferred option for staff in his organisation who need to access corporate systems and check email.

He said: "Because 3G and GPRS connectivity is still slow and patchy most road warriors prefer seeking out a Wi-Fi hotspot. I believe Wi-Fi hotspots will dominate the field. The best placed players will be those who support both such as T-Mobile."

Kirk Downey, CTO at Centrica, said total cost of ownership was a critical design element when his company looked at mobile access to email.

He said: "We decided against the RIM Blackberry solution, for example, due to the high call charges incurred by encryption and opted for a Windows mobile VPN solution. This resulted in significantly lower monthly call charges."

Today's CIO Jury was…

Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Paul Broome, IT director, 192.com
Colin Cobain, IT director, Tesco
Kirk Downey, CTO, Centrica
Michael Elliot, IT director, Hasbro
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Jacques Rene, head of IT and projects, Airclaims
Duncan Scott, CIO, Sea Containers
Richard Steel, head of ICT, London Borough of Newham
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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