Canada’s CTV gets a grip on international roaming voice, data costs

International voice, text and data costs can get expensive for vacation and business travelers alike.

However, for a national news organization that covers disasters around the globe, those costs can explode. Just ask CTV in Canada, which sent several reporters to cover the Haiti earthquake for several weeks in early 2010 and was slammed by fees when the bills came in.

“We didn’t have a roaming plan, and that trip alone cost us $20,000 to $30,000” in Canadian dollars for voice, text and data costs, said Vincent Colmenar, telecommunications coordinator for CTV, which is based in Toronto.

Recognizing that the news comes first, Colmenar said he has been willing to put up with international voice and data bill shock for a long time, as CTV’s 100 reporters and other staff move around the world in need of constant connections with each other and home base.

To help control the costs without restricting voice and data usage by reporters, Colmenar researched telecom expense management systems and was referred by his carrier, Bell Mobility, to Tangoe. (CTV is a part of Bell Mobility.)

Tangoe’s system gives CTV real-time information on texting, data and voice usage for any given user, enabling Colmenar to step in and set up a roaming agreement for a specific user’s trip abroad, cutting costs drastically.

The expense management system, called Tangoe Real-Time Telecom Expense Management, or “RTEM,” also sends him an email each time a user leaves CTV’s local calling area. “That single alert saves us thousands of dollars a month,” he said.

RTEM’s cost is $5 per month, per phone line — “very nominal,” Colmenar said.

Colmenar is not sure how much CTV has saved in international telecom roaming costs since putting RTEM in effect for the past year, but he calculated an example of the savings on data alone. For the past three months, 10 users at CTV racked up 819MB of data use in various countries, which would have cost $25.56 per megabyte on Bell Mobility without a specific roaming plan for users, he said. The total would have been nearly $21,000 ($21,162 in U.S. dollars) without roaming plans.

The actual bill for the same usage was reduced to $3,300 because Colmenar was able to step in and create roaming plans.

Data costs for international use by Canadians are much higher than in the U.S., he noted. Verizon Wireless plans to cut its international data charges for U.S. users in 120 countries on Monday to $25 for 100 MB, simplifying its charges from three tiers that are much higher. Meanwhile, AT&T last year updated its global data plans, which start at $25 for 50 MB.

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