Tackling the Next Big Wireless Problem: Data Costs
Wireless companies: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they hold the key to getting things done today. And as wireless becoming an increasingly more expensive and important spend for companies, they also hold a ton of leverage over a company’s productivity and bottom line. A good portion of that leverage comes in the form of data.
As wireless companies are switching to make the faster 4G LTE networks a standard, they’re also having to seriously clamp down on data availability – every major carrier except Sprint (which runs a much slower WiMAX network) has dumped unlimited data plans for tiered plans, and are passing higher costs along to customers.
But as businesses are going to need access to high-bandwidth solutions – videoconferencing, streaming video, etc – in increasing amounts, that creates an unsustainable tension between business needs and sky-high costs.
Thankfully, wireless providers have been thinking about this. At the CTIA Wireless 2012 conference, executives from several leading providers introduced the concept of “toll free” data plans that would essentially shift the cost burden to data-draining content providers like YouTube or Netflix, and away from the carrier.
Billing Frustrations Abound
Telecom expense management, whether we’re talking consumer cell phone bills or a company’s enterprise mobility platform, can be a pretty intimidating project. After all, customers don’t typically love their network — in fact, according to the AP, the U.S. wireless industry actually posted a net loss of contract-based subscribers last quarter, the first time that’s ever happened. Businesses, on the other hand, can’t walk away so easily. But the obvious unhappiness of consumers should be enough to inspire some more user-friendly changes in future mobile data plans.
According to research from Visage Mobile, the average employee costs his company more than $1,200 a year in wireless bills, and the average company spends over $850,000 a year in total wireless bills. Of that, more than $100,000 is needlessly spent on “accidents” like mismanaged data allocations, unauthorized downloads, and unexpected international roaming charges.
So any changes to data charges would count as a huge plus in managing companies’ corporate wireless spend.
Carrier Innovations Could Lend Helping Hand
One of the most promising – and highly debated – new ideas introduced at CTIA Wireless came from Verizon CTO Tony Melone. He suggested that there was a “50-50 chance” that carriers would soon embrace a business model that allowed popular destination services like Google and Netflix to pay telecoms directly for unrestrained access to customers.
“As we move away from flat rate pricing, there is room for an 1-800-type of service where certain destinations could offset the cost of the network to get customers to those destinations,” Melone explained. “There are net neutrality issues that have to be addressed, too.”
In a similar vein, T-Mobile has suggested that it may develop a specialized video channel that does not require a prescribed data plan. According to TmoNews, the new platform would rely on in-content advertisements to subsidize the costs of streaming media to smartphones and tablets.
This is just the beginning. Carriers can, and should, take steps to allow your data plan to be a more manageable beast, ultimately making your corporate wireless spend a bit less terrifying to behold.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user Jofus | JoeTheDough.