How many emails have you sent today? It’s hard to imagine conducting business without everyone’s favourite method of instant, mass communication. Almost impossible to remember the days when sending documents took two days, and offices were redolent with the sound of fax machines squeaking and spewing forth endless reams of paper. As anyone whose system has gone down will confirm, losing email is almost like losing a limb.
Of course, one of the reasons that email has become so central to our working lives is that it is relatively cheap, if not free, to send messages all over the world. Unlike phones, faxes and snail mail, email is not constrained by budgets, or charged for by the second or the mile.
Unless, that is, you are using mobile email. In which case the deal changes completely. Like mobile voice calls, charges are varied and frequently exorbitant. But unlike voice charges, the costs for mobile data transfer from abroad are characterised by a complete lack of transparency. Where charges are made public they are complex and hard to comprehend.
Gartner believes that by 2008, 41 million corporate employees globally will spend at least one day a week teleworking and 100 million will work from home at least one day a month.
All of this represents a growing profit centre for mobile phone operators, which are already making margin on each of these ‘roaming’ voice calls. Mobile phone operators have already threatened to pass on their potential loss from capped voice prices to other areas of their pricing structures. It is likely that one such area is data transfer.
Firms must ensure that the mobile email provider doesn’t tie them in to one single network so that they are not tied to the most obscure pricing structure. Second, users should ensure that their mobile email provider offers the best data compression levels, so that when vital documents are sent the cost is minimal.
If the European Union is serious about creating a single financial market that allows the free flow of goods, services and capital across the continent, it has to ensure that the costs of conducting international business are kept as low as possible. And that means encouraging the European Commission to extend its caps to mobile data as well as voice.
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