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Oil company gives roaming workforce unlimited Wi-Fi

Oil and gas well management company Expro chooses iPass to meet the mobile data needs of its globally distributed workforce

Expro, a supplier of well flow management products and services to oil and gas companies around the world, has slashed its mobility costs after moving its workforce onto iPass’s worldwide Wi-Fi network.

UK-based Expro employs around 5,000 people in 50 countries and operates in all the major oil and gas producing areas of the world. Globally, it segments its operations into four theatres: Europe and the CIS (the former USSR); sub-Saharan Africa; Asia, the Middle East and North Africa; and North and Latin America.

Its technology is designed to help oil companies monitor and manage fuel flow rates so they can extract maximum productivity and value from their sites.

Since so much of its business takes place at customer sites around the world, Expro appreciates the fundamental point of a mobile strategy that is both cost-effective and easy to deploy and manage.

However, up to now the challenge was that teh company was consuming vast amounts of mobile data because around half its workforce have to travel frequently, and need seamless connections to email, desktop apps, travel assistance apps and its unified communications suite when they did so.

Indeed, data charges had ballooned from 10% of its mobile charges in a few years to around 70%, representing a total spend of many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

What’s more says Expro CIO Martin Ogden, many of its clients’ remotest operational locations – such as Nigeria or parts of the Middle East – either had very unreliable or limited mobile coverage, or none whatsoever.

“To process data we typically would have to return to base,” he says. “This can slow down the processing of data, which can lead to inefficiencies within businesses.”

50 million hotspots

To help it cut its mobile costs, Ogden turned to wireless network aggregator iPass, which has a globe-spanning amenity Wi-Fi network of close to 50 million hotspots.

The iPass-hosted software as a service works across iOS, Windows Phone and Android devices, and offers unlimited network access at a fixed monthly price per user.

Access to this global network gives Expro’s workers seamless Wi-Fi connectivity at the remotest customer sites, hotels and airports.

Already Expro has cut its 3G and 4G roaming charges and reduced its exposure to bill shock events.

“The significant savings we make by using iPass instead of 3G or 4G mean it’s a key part of our mobile strategy. Without it, the rising costs of ever increasing data usage would seriously curtail our aspirations around unified communications on mobile,” Ogden says.

He adds that iPass had also brought greater efficiencies within Expro’s own business, with staff having developed something of an ‘always-on’ mentality simply because they now have a far better application experience than on a 3G or 4G mobile network.

And because staff can reliably use their devices to make personal calls and keep in touch with family back home – something that Expro chose to permit over the service because it does not increase the overall package costs – employee morale has also seen a significant upswing.

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Looking ahead, Ogden says he is also exploring ways to use the iPass network to improve the usability of unified communications (UC) tools.

“Deploying UC solutions such as Lync or Jabber can significantly increase data usage and thus the associated charges for data,” says Ogden.

“IPass allows us to reduce this impact when travelling by avoiding roaming costs from carriers, which in some countries can be prohibitively expensive. In the future, we would like to have an always-on solution where staff can use communication and collaboration tools wherever they are. IPass takes us closer to achieving this.”

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