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When employees are on the road they want fast connectivity on their mobile devices. They have three choices: Free Wi-Fi in hotels and coffee shops, paying for Wi-Fi or fixed connectivity in a hotel room or using a cellular connection — and racking up roaming and long-distance fees. Which is more cost-efficient?

As this story in Networkworld U.S. points out, it depends on a lot of factors. According to a recent report paid for by enterprise Wi-Fi provider iPass — which has an interest in the outcome — free Wi-Fi “does not provide the simplicity, convenience and security that today’s mobile professionals require.”

Similarly, piecemeal payment for Wi-Fi isn’t inexpensive. And for those travelling in Europe, while the costs of cellular roaming there have been reduced, they still remain substantial if a mobile user needs a lot of data.

So it concludes that a monthly global Wi-Fi subscription package –like one offered by iPass — is the right solution.

Telecom administrators should look at the numbers to see if the conclusion is valid. The report, aimed at those who are on the road and not just out of the office but in the same city where they work, assumes a mobile professional uses 760 MB of data a day, and more if they are going to more than one location while on a business trip. Note it doesn’t compare Canadian wireless rates, only those in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany.

Networkworld also interviewed consultant Jack Gold, president of J.Gold Associate, who did a U.S. study and concluded buying a 4G model and using a cellular connection was more cost effective than Wi-Fi, particularly for productivity.

Gold’s point is well taken: “You have to know what people are doing to decide if it’s cost effective. If you spend only five percent of the time on the road then it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money (on connectivity). If you travel 50 per cent of the time then it’s worth the money because time is valuable.”



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