April 8, 2012

Tricks for Avoiding Wireless Bill Shock

The horror stories abound: Employees drift across country borders and unknowingly rack up huge mobile roaming, long-distance and data usage charges. Texts suddenly cost 20 cents each, though eager-fingered users have an unlimited texting plan in their home country.

Multiply these anecdotes by growing numbers of mobile employees and you start talking about some serious coin. In fact, well over a third (37%) of 128 Fortune 1000 multinational companies recently surveyed by telecom watcher CCMI spend $1,000 or more per user every month on wireless roaming costs, while 57% experience monthly bills of more than $500 per user.

And overall, international wireless network roaming expenditures are increasing in nearly 70% of enterprise, according to CCMI. Unfortunately, that's a trend at distinct odds with the high-profile cost-containment initiatives under way at most organizations. What can you do?

Progress with Tradeoffs

WirelessTNApr9-SIDEBAR.jpgOne positive development is that mobile providers now send wireless alerts to users once they've exceeded their monthly limit. However, there's significant lag time between usage consumption and receipt of the alert.

Recently, for example, my business landline phone was out of order, so I temporarily forwarded that number to my mobile. The next day, I received an alert that I was more than $100 over my limit. I shrieked and threw my iPhone in a drawer. Yet a few hours later, even though I hadn't touched the phone again, another text arrived proclaiming that I was more than $200 over my limit.

When the bill arrived, the grand total in extra charges was a staggering $319. Since the out-of-order phone service was provided by the same operator delivering my mobile service, you'd think we could come to a resolution. No dice.

Then again, I'm a sole proprietor. But you enterprises out there might find strength in numbers.

Pool Your Usage

As an enterprise, you can contract with a mobile operator for a maximum number of voice minutes to be used in aggregate by employees in your company each month. Some users are light users; others are very heavy users. But they all "drink" from the same minutes pool. As long as there are sufficient minutes in the pool, your charge will remain the same each month.

Until recently, mobile data usage pools were not available. But now you can get them on a custom basis, says David Schofield, partner at Network Sourcing Advisors. He looks favorably upon doing so but says to be sure to conduct a thorough trend analysis of employees' data usage first.

"You really need good background data to be sure you buy the right-sized pool and have the right people in it," he explains. That includes looking ahead, at least for the term of the contract.

For example, many companies are creating social networks for in-house collaboration, he points out. If such an initiative should kick in after you strike your data pool contract and suddenly generate piles more data traffic, your pool might be too small and result in expensive overages.

How Does BYOD Fit?

The gotcha with the pooling approach, of course, is that darned bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend that's got everyone so jazzed. If most or all users have individual deals with separate carriers, there's little opportunity for bargaining clout and pooling. Depending on what, if any, reimbursement approach you take (fixed stipend per month, reimbursement of actual business charges delineated on an expense report), the network service usage is likely to cost more than a cohesive plan with a single operator in each country where you do business.

Still, if you do retain some corporate-liable devices for certain user groups, be sure to leverage your buying power and pool those users' voice minutes and, if you've done your homework, your data volumes.

You can also consider an option recently proposed by Philippe Winthrop, managing director at The Enterprise Mobility Foundation, called "COPE." His acronym stands for "corporate-owned, personally enabled," a BYOD twist whereby the enterprise allows employees to put some personal content on their work devices. IT retains control of the device and the corporate data on it, but also allows employees to install the apps they like for their personal use.  

While many enterprises seem to like the idea of offloading the capital expenditures of phones onto their employees with a true BYOD approach, some experts warn that you might lose what you save in capex - or more - in administration alone if you provide employee stipends or reimbursements for business mobile usage.


From an enterprise perspective, I agree that centralized monitoring and alerting is the way to go. Many MDM and TEM products can provide a solid handle on this, so long as they are granted permission to track calls and text messages and data usage. However, BYOD users may not always be comfortable having employers keep tabs on personal communication. This is why any intended monitoring should be covered in BYOD Acceptable Use Policies.

In addition, individuals with newer Android devices may want to check out Android 4 (ICS) mobile data usage settings. It's now possible for users to configure their own mobile data limits and usage cycles. Because these limits are tracked on the phone/tablet and not by the carrier, the user gets an immediate notification when their threshold is surpassed or their configured limit is reached. Another nice feature of that Android settings panel is data usage tracking per application, so that users can diagnose sudden spikes by identifying which app is the culprit. Caveat: These Android settings only covers mobile data - not call minutes or text messages.

Thanks for this valuable info, Lisa!

Search Webtorials

Get E-News and Notices via Email




I accept Webtorials' Terms and Conditions.

Trending Discussions

See more discussions...

Featured Sponsor Microsites



Please note: By downloading this information, you acknowledge that the sponsor(s) of this information may contact you, providing that they give you the option of opting out of further communications from them concerning this information.  Also, by your downloading this information, you agree that the information is for your personal use only and that this information may not be retransmitted to others or reposted on another web site.  Continuing past this point indicates your acceptance of our terms of use as specified at Terms of Use.

Webtorial® is a registered servicemark of Distributed Networking Associates. The Webtorial logo is a servicemark of Distributed Networking Associates. Copyright 1999-2018, Distributed Networking Associates, Inc.