A 4G bill shock warning for enterprises

Businesses need to implement an employee based mobile data usage strategy, or face the prospect of being stung with 4G bill shock.

For all the trumpeting of the new telecommunications protection code, and the consistent outcry against telco rip-offs and opaque charging, the greatest problem remains ourselves.

First, let me state that you only need to read my articles to see that I am vehemently against the gouging and rip-offs that are commonly called pricing plans by the carriers. I have also stated that the TCP code is self-congratulatory rather than any form of proper regulation. However, for all the problems on the telco side (and they are numerous), I reiterate that we can still be our own worst enemy.

Many of us are caught up in the consumerisation of new mobility devices. Businesses are tripping over themselves to update to the newest devices for their staff. And, the charge is quite often led by senior management, wanting the latest and greatest, the biggest status symbol or a toy for playing at home. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with any of this because I too always upgrade to the latest and greatest. However, I do so with a strategy for data use.

Over the last few weeks we have seen the launch of new Android and iPhone devices. Moreover, we have seen the launch of a new software platform for iPhones and iPads; iOS6.  For those of us on a Mac Platform, the last month also included a release of a new operating system called Mountain Lion.

Now, if you are like me, you downloaded all software updates when they came through. Then you had to update all your apps as they were updated for compatibility. Here is what a single user profile looked like in terms of size:

  • Mountain Lion – 4.3GB
  • iPad iOS 6 – 850MB
  • iPhone iOS 6 – 900MB
  • Application Upgrades – iPad – 450MB      
  • Application Upgrade – iPhone – 280MB
  • Application Upgrades – Mac – 290MB
  • TOTAL DOWNLOADED – 7.07GB

So, here’s where the problem starts. By keeping their Apple products up to date, one user has downloaded 7GB. Fortunately, the downloads can only take place over Wi-Fi, but that in itself is a problem – particularly if your employees see the office’s Wi-Fi as the best means to upgrade their toys.

What we have seen across all of our clients, is a massive spike in downloads, directly attributable to iOS 6 upgrades. As a direct result of these downloads, we have seen a jump in our client’s WAN and 3G usage. This spike has caused many of our clients to easily blow their monthly data allowance and waste dollars paying off the bill.

Not only does download usage increase, but networks become congested with the number of downloads, reducing some corporate WANs to dial up speeds. The resulting reduction in productivity from this speed cut is also really costly.

As I said above, we only have ourselves to blame for this massive spike in data use and the huge costs associated with it. Let me ask this, with so many businesses lacking a clear strategy and so many downloads taking place simultaneous, would a telco based alert that you are nearing 80 per cent of your monthly download allocation saved all of these businesses? No doubt a few would be saved, but the majority would still suffer from this tsunami of downloads. It would be difficult for a last minute warning to change an ongoing pattern of behaviour.

What’s worse; new technology will only work to further exaggerate this problem.

We now have devices with LTE capabilities, and screens that boggle the mind with their clarity. Most will blindly leap at this new technology without any thought towards their data allowance and their download speeds. In fact this new technology is set to create the perfect storm for 4G bill shock.

It may be a leap to assume that a larger screen with more pixels will push you over your data allowance, but consider this point. Because of the need to avoid pixilation with better quality screens, web sites are using better quality images. These images are underpinned by larger file sizes. However, you wouldn’t notice this because network speeds are making pages load quicker despite the size of the files. This may seem to be a minor problem, but consider it from the perspective of an enterprise.  Each high definition website that is loaded incurs a small per device, per user hit to the data allowance, but quickly adds up when multiplies across a fleet of users.

Another point to consider with a larger screen resolution is that apps are updated all the time to be compatible with this enhanced picture quality. As a result, we are downloading the same app for a better picture. This again is chewing up bandwidth and download allowances for businesses.

Perhaps the final concern that 4G concern that businesses have to contend with is the simple fact that the speed in which data can be downloaded over 4G and LTE is incredible. As a result, you can do a lot more in less time, but it also means you can hit your data limit so much quicker.

Many businesses will be able to put warnings in place under the TCP, but if there is no strategy underpinning the warnings and employee usage then bill shock will continue to haunt the enterprise space. And this time, we may only have ourselves to blame.

Tony Simmons is the managing director and founder of The Full Circle Group, an independent telecommunications consultancy firm focused on Telco expense costs and management.