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Business travel has a problem. As you read this, hundreds of professionals are preparing to enter “radio silence” as they switch off mobile data for a business trip.

In fact, 60% of business travellers are cutting themselves off once they touch down on foreign soil1. This lack of continuous access to internet, email and cloud is stopping staff from staying confidently connected and capitalising on new business opportunities.

The growth of emerging markets is driving multinational organisations to look further afield for new business opportunities and global business travel spending is expected to exceed $1.12 trillion over the next few years2.

Some business travellers are familiar with the traditional cost/convenience trade-off when using mobile communications abroad. Either they accept the higher charges and work as they would in their own country or they compromise their productivity by adopting an array of different cost-saving measures and workarounds.

A third of enterprises now encourage employees to keep mobile device usage to a minimum while working abroad3, which is causing employees to rely on unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots or even forgo their usual phone number by using a local SIM card. The result is that business travellers can be less productive when abroad, with too much time wasted trying to establish data access which could compromise security.

Employees need access to wired, wireless and cloud capabilities to be confidently connected in their world. And they need to do this without worrying about unexpected charges, added complexity or security risk. They also need the ability to support any single or combination of mobile devices – smart phone, tablet or laptop – whether company or privately owned.

To achieve all of this, organisations need total communications services providers to sidestep the communications challenges of travelling to emerging markets and eliminate the stress of working overseas.

Borderless business

International borders are no longer the barriers to business they once were and the enterprise telecommunications infrastructure needs to reflect this. Take the employee travelling to meet a new supplier or explore a partnership. He needs the connectivity to send and receive emails at the airport, in the taxi and between meetings. He may need to view and edit documents in the cloud to tweak presentations or prevent approval bottlenecks from building up at the office. There may also be a number of enterprise applications, such as payment handling, that he needs access to in order to do his job.

He might need GPS navigation to locate hotels and offices. He could be asked to access and reel off facts and figures during meetings. He might need to dial in to remote meetings using voice and video. Or he may simply have family and friends maintaining contact through social networks and instant messaging.

He needs access to all of this from the moment he steps off the plane.

Hitting turbulence

Business travel rarely runs this smoothly. The second biggest bugbear, after lost or stolen luggage, is a lack of internet connection4. Then there are concerns over unexpected bills and charges.

The problem is that employees may not know what they are doing wrong. Either they switch roaming off making them hard to contact and unproductive. Or they roam without knowing whether they are on a cost-effective plan or not.

This doesn’t help the CIO, who may have little real-time visibility over the mobile estate or roaming spend being racked up by employees.

Reaching altitude

Employees need to connect to the mobile network without worrying which country they are in. And they need the support of an end-to-end total communications supplier to achieve this in a way that doesn’t break the bank and does give the CIO a clear picture of how and where telecommunications budgets are being spent. It means self-optimising plans that ensure employees are on the best tariffs, data bundles that enable employees to share data across devices, innovative tariffs that allow employees to use their home allowance when abroad; and apps that give global visibility of data usage and warnings when thresholds are reached.

By working with suppliers to create and implement these kind of innovative communications agreements, not only does this create more productive and less stressed employees, but it puts businesses on the front foot to compete on the global stage.

The trends in global data and mobile use

Infographic: prepare your business for mobile data growth