Most businesses today enter into multi-year mobile service contracts with their service providers. This means of course that they have to wait until contract renewal time to access the most up-to-date tariffs and plans. In a world of multi-year contracts getting it right at contract renewal time is critical. So, if you or your team are responsible for putting a new mobile service contract in place, what should you be looking for to find the right mobile plan for your organization?
Mobile data now the main event
Back in the day, it was all about minutes – on net, off-net, mobile to mobile, mobile to fixed, international, roaming out, roaming in – how things have changed. Today most plans include all you can eat domestic talk and text. Charges for international calls and voice roaming have plummeted. What’s more we’re talking and texting less on our phones – whether at home or abroad. Today it’s all about data – our research shows that enterprise mobile data consumption is growing at 100% plus in many organizations. What’s more, according to analysts at Ericsson and Cisco, mobile data consumption is set to increase tenfold in the next five years.
So in a data dominated world what’s the right mobile plan for your organization? What should you look for and what pitfalls should you avoid when negotiating a new mobile service plan? Having worked with many different organizations and analyzed mobile data usage patterns for thousands of devices, here are some of the lessons we’ve learned about how to put in place a robust, cost effective plan for your organization.
Get the right plan.
Let’s start by thinking about what your end goal should be – you want low cost, you want predictability and you want to avoid being gouged! What your mobile plan should deliver is a low and consistent per gigabyte price for data. Once you have this in place it is then all about controlling employee consumption to make sure that unnecessary usage (e.g. excessive personal use) is avoided.
We’re not going to offer any advice on how to get the lowest price – we’re confident that your well-honed negotiating skills will stand to you in that regard! Where we can offer insight is in how to structure your plan so that it delivers predictable and consistent pricing.
What do we specifically mean by this? Consider these two scenarios we’ve come across on more than one occasion:
- A SIM card previously used in a feature phone is switched to a smartphone. The next month you get a bill for $500 for the 2GB of data used by the smartphone. But this shouldn’t have happened. Shouldn’t that data have come from your data pool (where on average 2GB cost less than $10)? Your carrier will, of course, respond by saying that the SIM was on a feature phone tariff with a per KB charge of $.02! So you’re left with an avoidable average and a data charge 50 times higher than what you thought you’d signed up for.
- Even more annoying is the cost incurred by the employee who had an unexpected trip to China and ran up a $2,000 data charge. Why wasn’t he put on your standard $10 a day roaming bundle which allows roaming data to be treated as domestic?
What’s happening is that your service provider is unfairly punishing your organization for minor administrative snafus. So how do you structure a plan that prevents these situations and delivers a low cost solution overall? What you need are a small number of plan types which treat data usage consistently.
The right phone tariff.
To start with you need what we’ll call a “core” phone tariff.
- Your core phone tariff should include all you can eat domestic calls and text. It should cover all smartphones and most feature phones. Today, most operators are willing to offer such a plan at a cost effective price.
- Data usage on these devices should be covered by a shared pool and all such devices should automatically be included in this pool.
- All phones on the core phone tariff should also be automatically covered in whatever roaming arrangement you put in place (see below).
Secondly, you’ll want a data device tariff. Data devices come, literally, in all shapes and sizes.
- For tablets/laptops the simplest (and likely the best) plan is one with a data pool and no per connection fee. This may be a common pool for both phones and data devices or a separate pool for data devices only. The benefit of a separate pool is that there may be an opportunity to negotiate a lower rate for data consumed on data devices (such as tablets) as against smartphones.
What about roaming?
Thirdly you’ll need a roaming plan. The best arrangement is one where employees are automatically enrolled in the appropriate roaming plan.
- Day passes (such as Verizon TravelPass or Vodafone WorldTraveller) generally work well as they treat roaming usage as part of your domestic bundle in return for a low per day fee charged when the device is used abroad.
- Roaming add-ons is an alternative option. This is where an additional monthly fee is levied for those employees who have the add-on enabled. The problem with this approach is that it’s hard to keep track of which employees need to have the add-on enabled. And of course, it is often the case that such add-ons remain activated long after the employee has the need for them.
Depending on your organization’s circumstances you might also want an ultra-low cost plan for devices with predictably low traffic – these would include M2M devices which transmit low volumes of data or occasionally use phones (for example phones kept as back up). Under this plan talk and text is priced on a per minute/per text basis. It is critical however that data usage on these phones is not charged separately but is accounted for under the organization’s data pool. This is because the SIM card in these devices can easily get recycled into more data hungry smartphones.
Special cases to keep in mind.
Finally, it is worth highlights some special situations.
- The first is that even with a roaming plan travelers from North America and Europe face high costs in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. If these regions are relevant to your employees (and remember that employees will use their work phones while on both business and leisure travel) make sure you are clear about the difference in coverage of the various roaming offerings.
- The second item to pay close attention to are wireless routers. By default most plans will treat these in the same way as tablets or laptops. However, it may be advisable to get a separate plan for such devices as they have the ability to consume many multiples of the amount of traffic of a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Wireless routers which are used to provide Wi-Fi access to multiple end user devices could easily generate 200 GB of data in a given month – 20x the typical cellular traffic from a tablet.
Be in control.
A mobile service contract which delivers low monthly fixed fees and consistently low prices for data regardless of circumstances is now within reach for most businesses. Organizations will no longer have to waste time shifting users between tariff plans, canceling unused connections and enabling and disabling roaming add-ons. Instead, they will be able to better focus on the biggest risk to mobile cost escalation – uncontrolled growth in mobile data consumption. Corrata’s research has confirmed that many organizations are seeing annual mobile data consumption growth of over 100%. To learn more about how to address this tsunami of mobile traffic download our recent white paper on mobile data control in the enterprise here.