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Business data usage. Now it’s personal.

By Colm 11th May 2016

Business data usage

In the days when mobile phone use was all about voice and text applying an acceptable use policy was relatively straightforward. Most enterprise policies had evolved to a point where it was seen as acceptable for employees to use their business phones for reasonable levels of personal activity. While in theory people were expected to itemise and pay for every individual call a more practical approach was generally taken: as long as people were abusing the privilege of their employer picking up the tab for the mobile bills a reasonable level of personal use was accepted/tolerated. This approach became even simpler to justify when all you can eat voice and text plans became prevalent – this meant that personal voice and text incurred no cost for the enterprise.

What’s really going on?

Mobile data is, however, a lot trickier. The most significant change is that the amount of data you use (and hence the amount of cost your company incurs) is only loosely related to the amount of time you are using the service generating the traffic. In the extreme case of background syncing (where your phone is periodically retrieving data from the internet in the background) you are not using the phone at all. And a poorly behaved or misconfigured app can easily download hundreds of megabytes of data without your knowledge. At the other end of the spectrum are text based data capture apps. These generate low levels of data traffic but are often some of the most frequently used apps in the enterprise. Corrata’s analysis of over 1 million mobile phone bills suggests that a very high proportion of mobile data usage is personal. The most telling analysis is when we compare the among of data used at weekends and on public holidays with what’s used during the week. What we see is only a small drop in usage. What we also see are many users whose usage dramatically increases over the weekend.

Streaming junkies

Now on one level, this is not a problem – if usage is within the level of the cheapest available plans (typically 1GB) then the enterprise incurs no cost penalty. And while historically enterprise users have had low levels of data usage trends now suggest that they are catching up with their peers in the general population – and this isn’t because their employers are making available a whole range of data heavy apps with massive productivity benefits. In fact what’s happening is that the growing appeal of consumer streaming services is now being felt in the enterprise. Watch the spike in traffic use as the new series of Game of Thrones gets streamed to a mobile device near you!