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Share Everything: Will This Crush Your Enterprise Mobility Budget?

Site Note:  We’d like to introduce you to Hyoun Park. Hyoun is a Principal Analyst at Nucleus Research, a is the leading provider of investigative information technology research and advisory services. Hyoun is a recognized thought leader and will be sharing with the EMF community his thoughts on Wireless Expense Management and other important enterprise mobility topics. Please join us in welcoming Hyoun to the EMF!

On June 28th, Verizon launched the Share Everything plan, which provided a pool of shared data for multiple users and multiple devices.  AT&T quickly responded with its own set of Mobile Share data plans that are scheduled to be launched on August 23rd.  These plans represent a fundamental shift in the cost structure of mobility and have been driven by two trends in enterprise mobility and mobile infrastructure.

  1. The service providers are at an inflection point in supporting mobile data.  Carrier claims of providing “next generation 4G networks” are often arbitrary and cannot be consistently translated from carrier to carrier.  One carrier’s “4G” may be another carrier’s “3G” in terms of pure performance. So, despite the 4G claims being made, mobile carriers are not keeping up with the order of magnitude bandwidth upgrade needed to support video and mobile hotspots.  Because of this, carriers don’t currently have the bandwidth to fully support end user needs.
  2. Device diversity is increasingly rapidly and tablets are only the beginning.  The proliferation of iPhones and Android-based smartphones has provided enterprises with an initial set of hardware that must now be accounted for as core IT infrastructure. Employees also seek wireless connections for their laptops when Wi-Fi isn’t available.  In addition, the emergence of tablets, most notably the iPad, has added an additional device that must be considered by wireless service providers. As complicated as this device ecosystem is, it is only the start of a world that is quickly going to become more connected as any device that can change location or status starts to become connected.  Consider the work that Plantronics is doing in opening its APIs to developers. Or the work that Enterasys is doing in supporting machine-based network support. Or the broader world of machine-to-machine interactions associated with smart grids, manufacturing, digital signage, and telematics.  Each of these use cases requires additional devices to be connected to the cellular network

So, what is actually happening here?  Service providers can’t simply move to a device-based or user-based billing plan yet because they can’t afford to support the data bandwidth yet.  But at the same time, they realize that future opportunities in increasing the average revenue per user are dependent on the proliferation of mobile devices.

As a result, Verizon and AT&T have come up with these clunky Mobile Share Everything plans that include some amount of data, types of devices, and numbers of devices. From a wireless expense management perspective, the most important change here is that companies will have to start thinking about the types of devices associated with their enterprise mobility deployments to control operational expenses. This is an evolutionary change from the carrier perspective from a usage-based billing model to a model that takes hardware (including end user preferences for specific types of hardware) into account in charging for services.

As carriers increase their bandwidth infrastructure, the raw cost of data will have a similar lifecycle to landline long distance over the next several years, where the cost per unit reduces over time and finally is tossed into an unlimited monthly plan.  To compensate, the carriers have made this shift towards a device-specific and user-specific billing model where end user hardware preferences and behaviors will play an increasingly large role in how companies are charged.  This trend will create challenges for mobility departments seeking to forecast their operational budgets over the next couple of years, regardless of whether this budget is based on corporate-liable models, reimbursement of personal devices, or a hybrid COPE approach. The designation of “smartphone” versus “mobile phone” already seems arbitrary enough, but what happens when the newest iPhone or Galaxy device suddenly gets an extra $10/month surcharge or each sensor associated with an M2M deployment gets charged?

As mobility managers both renegotiate their contracts and prepare their budget projections over the next couple of years, they have to consider this fundamental change in mobility billing as it is phased into their environments, as it has the potential to radically change costs if companies simply accept these changes without prior visibility or planning. In preparing for 2013 budget and service provider planning, take the following steps:

  1. Model next year’s planned budget based on this new device-based perspective of mobility and prepare your CFO in advance of the sticker shock that may be associated with your current mobility usage.
  2. Make your carrier rep and your telecom expense management provider do some of the work.  They should start to have tools to model your current mobility deployment based on these new device-based plans.
  3. Get ready for budget volatility.  As the carriers continue to become more specific with their device-based plan modeling, we are going to see new types of charges that we haven’t traditionally accounted for.  These random $5 – $10/month charges could substantially change enterprise mobility costs.

2 Comments

  1. Posted August 21, 2012 at 16:33 | Permalink

    I think this just drives more companies to embrace personal liable and provide only a stipend to offset mobile expense based on role. We’re targeting to reduce our corporate liable deployment over the next 2-3 years as mobile data and device churn are near impossible to keep up with.

    Let employees make decisions based on what works for them and how “connected” they wish to be.

    There are core values in enabling a mobile workforce (and have full oversight) but the budget number is growing yearly.

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    • Posted August 27, 2012 at 16:13 | Permalink

      The key is that the stipend needs to be less than the enterprise cost of deployment. That’s a balance that companies often misjudge because they don’t measure the total cost of ownership for BYOD correctly: reimbursement, cost of reimbursement processes, support, and a possible lost discount on enterprise networking and telecom services. Typically, an appropriate BYOD stipend that is cost-neutral compared to well-managed enterprise spend would be $20-$40 per month less than the actual individual bill depending on the support and overall corporate carrier spend involved.

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