Everyone is entitled to affordable internet access

Published in Finnish in Kauppalehti, September 17th 2012

Data transfer costs abroad are holding companies back from building international business. The EU imposed data roaming regulation is not enough to solve the problem.

Every entrepeneur or international salesman faces the traveller’s dilemma: when you’d have access to the internet you don’t have the time. When you’d have the time an affordable, easy to use secure internet access is nowhere to be found.

Typically when you have time to access the internet you are between meetings, in an airport, train station, hotel or taxi. Reliable wifi hotspots are few and far between. The alternative of finding a local SIM card is difficult and time consuming. Hotel provided internet access only works in the hotel – and not when looking for one. Using your smartphone for data access can bring a costly surprise in terms of roaming charges.

Access to the internet is a basic right for us europeans, and it is particularly critical when building an international business. An entrepreneur needs to be online all the time. People travelling abroad are missing this right. The EU has tried to ease the situation by setting a regulatory cap for roaming prices, but even with this cap a heavy data user can still accumulate data roaming bills in the level of thousands of euros.

Operators are starting to offer more affordable data packages. The data transfer caps in these packages hit surprisingly soon when receiving or sending attachments or viewing videos. A 50 megabyte “unlimited data package” reaches its limits when working for an hour on email on a laptop or viewing YouTube for 15 minutes.

The average filesize of an internet download is increasing at an accelerating pace. Internet is used by four out of five people on the planet and the amount of data being transferred over mobile networks has doubled annually in the past four years. More than 100 million smartphone users are in the “gigabyte club” of users using more than 1000 mega bytes of data in a month. Last year more than 175 million laptops were connected to a mobile network with each of these laptops creating more than 22 times the traffic of smartphones. The EU’s and the operators’ actions are insufficient to solve the international data transfer problem.

The current situation is challenging in particular to European companies building cross-border business. Europe’s national borders define the footprints for mobile operators – this is very different compared to the United States where the whole continent is covered by a number of competing operators. Everytime a European businessman crosses a border, he moves to a costly roaming network. The high cost of data limits the usage of the internet, which in today’s world means slowing down business.

Finding a solution to lower international data transfer costs is a problem that is very difficult for the European Union or the operators to solve, even if they wanted to. The hundreds of roaming agreements between operators form a complex interdependent network that is difficult to simplify. The problem only gets bigger when including countries beyond the European Union.

The complex problem needs a simple solution. I believe it is possible to find a solution that benefits everyone: the consumers, operators and the whole society. We have been working for slightly over a year on an innovative solution that puts an affordable domestic and international internet access in everyone’s pocket. Our starting point is that wherever you travel, you should be able to have easy access to unlimited use of the internet at local pricing.

Our product development is now in its final stages and during the autumn we are ready to provide our solutions for users to assess. It eases the everyday life of international and mobile professionals. It improves productivity. Our ambitious goal is that our innovation can, to a small part, help Europe regain its competitiveness.

Tommi Uhari
CEO, Uros Ltd