The benefits of mobile working are growing all the time as devices and software align and staff can do everything from filing reports and updating records, to accessing data and schedules on the move.
However, these benefits are undermined if poor to non-existent mobile connectivity makes it impossible for staff to get online, whether to make calls and send texts, or access data services.
One company hoping to solve this is Anywhere SIM, which provides a cross-network roaming service on the O2, Vodafone and EE networks so that customers have a much better chance of getting a connection wherever they are.
The service works by piggybacking on the roaming agreement between the Isle of Man-based Manx Telecom and the main UK providers so that customers on an Anywhere SIM connection can flit between the networks as required.
The company was founded by Matthew Wright, who initially saw it as a consumer service for those in regions blighted by poor signal. However, business interest in the service quickly took off.
“When we first started we assumed that the B2B market was wrapped up, but instead we immediately generated a lot of interest, and this included Capita which saw it as a really interesting proposition for the public sector,” Wright told V3.
This partnership had its first success last month with the signing of a 5,000-user deal with Norfolk County Council, seeing off incumbent provider Vodafone, and EE and O2. Another 650-user deal is also on the verge of being signed, while other contracts are expected to be announced later this year.
Wright believes that interest is being generated because a lack of signal is so debilitating to so many organisations, especially as they move to more flexible working practices.
"The key problem that the people we talk to have poor coverage. That’s the primary issue," he said. "So it means people can't make the calls they need to make or update records or send photos."
Roaming fees declining
Of course, mention the idea of roaming and questions around price will immediately surface alongside images of exorbitant bills.
Prices for Anywhere SIM's service are 10p per minute for calls, 5p per text message and 10p per megabyte of data. This is not overly expensive, but is still likely to be more than home network operators can offer on set contracts.
However, Wright believes that many public sector organisations now realise that they are overpaying for mobile contracts as they sign set fee per-user contracts, when in fact the pay-as-you-use model is cheaper.
“Local authority users, for example, typically have a lower average user of minutes, texts and data, so they don’t actually need ‘all you can eat’ bundles,” he said.
Wright also pointed out that the ongoing decreases in roaming costs brought about by the European Commission makes the service more attractive all the time.
“As we get closer to  our price proposition will only get more competitive, so that’s really good news for us,” he said.
Advert for Anywhere SIM
One area where Anywhere SIM is lacking is 4G services. This is out of the firm’s hands as it has to wait for Manx Telecom to get 4G roaming agreements in place with operators before it can offer the service.
However, Wright is confident that this will be resolved in the near future. “Most of the people we are appealing to will struggle to find 3G, let alone 4G," he said, explaining why he does not think this is a problem for customers yet.
"That said, 4G is part of the road map and we expect it to be included [in our services] before the end of the year.”
It is also worth noting that the service does not allow calls to move from one network to another in real time.
One interesting area of focus for the future for Anywhere SIM is the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications.
Wright told V3 that the company is already in active discussions with some manufacturers about the idea of using its SIMs directly in devices.
"We are working now with certain organisations who are becoming aware of the whole concept of connecting devices, and are thinking: 'Is it really sensible to rely on a consumer WiFi to connect our device, or to rely on a single network for that connection?',” he said.
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