Enterprise guide to saving on wireless

As mobility is increasingly being elevated from a "nice to have" feature to a "must have" for companies, businesses stand to benefit by diligently managing wireless service costs.
The stakes are high: mobile phones are becoming entrenched as a corporate productivity tool. According a recent Gartner report, 40 percent of enterprise knowledge workers will cease using desk phones by end-2013.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the subsidizing of employee mobile phone bills is a common practice. Shalini Verma, communications research manager at IDC Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that nearly 43 percent of enterprises in the region engage in mobile device-related sponsorship for some or all of their employees.
"In general, the mobile service bills of the mobile workforce with customer-facing roles are partially or fully subsidized by the employer organizations in this region," she said. "In markets such as the Philippines and China, enterprises even hand out prepaid cards to employees."
At a broader level, Gartner estimated that 80 percent of businesses will overspend on their wireless service costs by an average of 15 percent over the next five years. On top of that, the average cost per user for voice services will decline annually by less than 2 percent during the same period.
Phillip Redman, Gartner's research vice president for mobile and wireless, urged businesses to look at four key areas of wireless expenditure over the next 12 months. These, he said in the report, revolved around contracts, management of mobility, international roaming fees and fixed mobile convergence.
1. Contracts
Contract negotiation and service provider consolidation are common themes in the current economic climate, according to Redman. However, organizations ought to make carrier negotiations an ongoing process, he pointed out. "Don't wait until the contract is up, to begin."
IDC's Verma concurred, adding that large enterprises with offices in multiple locations may be able to obtain preferential rates or waiver of some charges, by using a regional or global telecom service provider.
In addition, multiple service providers do "add a level of complexity", she pointed out. On the other hand, businesses can consider engaging a service provider or a systems integrator to do mobile service contract management to help minimize telecoms expenditure.
2. Management of mobility
Companies, said Gartner's Redman, need to do better in identifying key user segments and requirements, and match those needs with the requisite services. User groups should be kept to between four and six.
Companies also need to identify key cost metrics, including average minutes of use, average cost per user, total enterprise minutes above plan and total enterprise minutes below plan, and cost-savings opportunities, he added.
Keeping to a primary mobile platform may also be more cost-effective, as supporting more than one increases complexity, which leads to higher costs.
3. International roaming
Apart from limiting travel and mobile usage while traveling, companies can consider adopting mobile roaming plans or working out roaming cost reductions with mobile operators, said Redman. Other options include local phone rental, local SIM cards, international VPN dialing and voice over Wi-Fi.
International data bills, he added, can sometimes reach thousands of dollars within a short period, as they are based on traffic volume and the number of logins. Among other options, companies can choose to disallow ad hoc use of international wireless data, or pursue data plans designed for international use.
4. Fixed mobile convergence (FMC)
Companies can explore the role that integration of fixed and wireless technologies and mobile unified communications (UC) play in cost reduction, noted Redman.
Businesses, however, need to be aware of various factors, such as the benefits of FMC and mobile UC, the maturity of available products, and "how mobile UC will drive the adoption of UC and the replacement of wired telephony for mobile users in the next five years".