By Daniel Hunter

International business travelers from North America and Europe are overspending on connectivity charges when travelling by at least £855 million, according to Rethink Technology Research.

In 2014, business travelers from North America and Europe made 78 million international business trips, according to travel researchers IPK International. The direct and indirect costs of keeping these business travelers online through cellular roaming, pay-on-demand Wi-Fi and free Wi-Fi would have been at least £1.42 billion for all of these trips. In contrast, providing business travelers with access to an unlimited global Wi-Fi network would realize savings of at least £855 million.

“Failing to have a practical and convenient policy for mobile connectivity can be a costly mistake for businesses," said Gary Griffiths, president and CEO of iPass, which released the research.

"The amount of mobile data consumed by business is growing rapidly, as more employees adopt the use of cloud-based mobile applications of all kinds and look to replicate enterprise working environments on their smart-phones, tablets, and laptops. Although there are millions of free and pay-on-demand Wi-Fi hotspots, connecting to them often poses multiple annoyances - from having to enter personal and credit card information repeatedly - to the threat of exposing sensitive business and personal information on unsecured networks."

Of the £855 million being wasted, £275 million stems from business trips within Europe, a further £243 million comes from Europeans traveling outside of Europe, and £337 million from North Americans traveling internationally.

The cost of connectivity varies for international business travelers across both Europe and North America depending on the methods they use. Using a cellular roaming-only approach would cost North Americans traveling internationally £531 - £1,141 per month. For Europeans traveling within Europe, the cost would be £55 - £273, and for those traveling outside Europe the cost would be £935 - £1,366. These staggering costs are a result of both cellular roaming charges, and an increase in data consumption by business travelers, which currently stands at 4.5GB per month. Most business travelers understand the cost implications of consuming their data using cellular roaming and have naturally adopted a “Wi-Fi First” approach to connectivity as a result.

Though free Wi-Fi is widely available, the term is often misleading. Slow connectivity speeds prevent data-hungry business applications from working properly. Additionally, obtaining free Wi-Fi often involves a lengthy registration process and limited usage periods on unsecured networks. These issues can result in lost productivity for business travelers; the Rethink Research report suggests that this loss in productivity can cost businesses £562 per business traveller, each month. Pay-on-demand Wi-Fi services dispel some of these issues due to generally being faster, more reliable and more secure. However, business travelers are expected to pay a premium for such services; the cost for North American and European business travelers could reach up to £83 each month. This figure only considers the purchase of services from frequently visited locations such as the airport, in-flight and hotels so the real figure could well be higher.

"It may be counter intuitive, but using free Wi-Fi is one of the most expensive things you can ask your employees to do. There are long periods, like in-flight, when they cannot work, or where they are wandering around looking for a free connection. Also, around 50% of hotels who say they offer free Wi-Fi charge a premium for a service fast enough to actually work on. Employees forced to go down this route certainly won’t be as productive as they should be and they may well feel under-appreciated and be more likely to leave," said Peter White, Principal Analyst and Founder, Rethink Technology Research.