Wireless Telecom Services and Hidden Costs

Telecom services has become such a vast category that it’s difficult for non-specialists to even understand what they’re entitled to much, less manage services for maximum cost effectiveness. It’s no wonder that business communications costs are soaring, when managers would be hard-pressed to know exactly what they signed up for, and where employee errors, misuse or poor business intelligence as to company needs might kick their costs up a notch.

Smartphone wireless cost management

How much is your Droid or Milestone phone really costing you?

Let’s take a look at five potential hidden expenses:

Apps: Smartphones have given rise to a new source for hidden costs: phone applications – or apps. iPhone, Android and upcoming Windows 7 Phone apps will not only cost money to download and install, but may make it possible for employees to eat up their data allotments at an alarming rate through services like streaming audio and video – and in most cases, these uses aren’t exactly “business critical.”

Overage: If you don’t understand your data needs, you may choose a plan that’s provides too little data per month at a preferential rate. Once employees exceed the data allotment, you’ll pay the heavy fees charged for data above the monthly threshold. Only accurate telecom audits can track your data usage, track it to business activities, and determine your true data needs.

Service Use Outside of Plans: Of course, if you don’t have a data plan at all, opening a web browser will lead to heavy metered charges. Sending texts without a text plan can be similarly expensive. In many cases, phones can still perform services you didn’t add to your plan, but instead of plan fees to need to pay much higher per use charges. Avoid the temptation to use a service that isn’t in your plan “just once or twice” and see if you can get the ability to occasionally use it removed completely.

Tethering Charges: Watch out for this if you have particularly tech-savvy employees. Almost any modern phone can be converted to a modem, but this is most easily done with 3G and better handsets. Unfortunately, most carriers charge an additional fee for tethering above and beyond standard data charges, so what looks like an innovative way to connect and get things done may end up proving to be extremely expensive.

Telecom expense management will not only help you understand your entitlements, but will show you what you really need and where trouble spots in your billing might appear. Contact us to see how we can get you started with an initial audit.

Think Twice Before You Add Palm Phones to Your Fleet

Mobile management is more than just picking the lowest prices or the best handsets. Consider the case of Palm products.

The Palm Pre was an extraordinary smartphone. The Pre Plus is even better. On the surface, both are worthy executive level phones with a unique OS and look that combined functionality and style. The Palm Pixi is a fun little phone for basic tasks – not great for core business activities, but it looks like might be good as a pure perk. Right now, the Pre and Pixi are incredibly cheap, so wouldn’t it keep costs down to pick them?

Palm Pre Mobile Management

The Palm Pre is a bargain for consumers -- but not the best for business.

Well I’ve given it away in the article title, but the sad answer is “no.” Yes, the Palm Pre is an excellent phone that carriers are offering for nothing on selected plans, but Palm is ailing. Its stock plummeted 19% on Friday March 19th, and may be worthless soon. CNN Money quoted one analyst as saying Palm is in a “death spiral.” This matters to end users because if Palm falls apart, that means you’ll be left with no upgrades, up to date support or new applications – and that’s not where you want to be with a contract. That’s a serious mobile management consideration.

What happened? Blackberries were the original smartphones before there was even a smartphone category, and are still the go-to phone for business use. The iPhone is in a league of its own. It can be customized for virtually any task by loading the right Apps, though many people probably use it for style and fun, not business. A past pioneer in the dying PDA category, Palm was ideally positioned to enter the smartphone category that replaced PDAs. Despite a few hiccups in the hardware and a foolish war with Apple over iTunes synching, the Pre looked ready to make Palm a third big player, bridging the gap between the too-serious Blackberry and the style-fixated iPhone.

Then Android hit. Palm couldn’t compete with an open OS that might not have been innovative, but was cheap to implement on a variety of handsets in all price categories, right up to the Droid, (Milestone in Canada) a phone obviously competing for the over $100 digital assistant niche. Android might be a poor fit for some handsets, but it will always cost less to implement, and the wave of Android phones creates a situation where once users will become familiar with the OS on one phone they’ll be comfortable with any handset that has an Android installation.

Palm’s tried to move forward with gaming and rich media applications in the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, but even if they save themselves, they’re doing it by attacking a niche with little relevance to business users. Either way, Palm phones aren’t the right choice for your company’s mobile fleet, no matter how far their prices drop. Good mobile management thinks about your interests across a phone’s entire lifecycle – not just at the point of purchase.

What is Telecom Lifecycle Management?

Telecom lifecycle management is a hot topic in companies with mid to enterprise level telecommunications needs ranging from wireless phones to landlines and internet. What is it? Why is it essential to modern telecom expense management?

telecom expense management cycle

Tele-Watch's system audits and adjusts the entire usage and billing cycle

This January, the Aberdeen Group published “Recovering with Telecom Lifecycle Management,” a report that details the advantages of this method and how it can help drive a company’s re-emergence into the economy after the last two difficult years. According to the report, best in class service resulted in a 16% reduction in telecom spend on services that covered 45% of employees with advanced communications (such as smartphones and video).

Saving 16% on some of the most expensive telecom services is certainly nothing to sneeze at! But how does it work?

A 360 Degree Approach

Traditional telecom expense management deals with everything from wireless to long distance as if its needs have “fallen out of the sky.” The client has a number of phones, carriers and services in play and it’s the job of a telecom audit to find flaws and errors, research the field for better solutions and apply them as much as possible.

Where traditional telecom expense management reacts, telecom lifecycle management acts. Telecom lifecycle management is a holistic approach that starts with sourcing and procuring the most appropriate hardware for business functions at the best price. Lifecycle management applies appropriate carriers, plans and policies, and tracks every handset and service from its beginning to end. Tracking includes traditional telecom expense management functions such as bill monitoring and cost management. When service is necessary, telecom lifecycle management gets it done. Experts plan upgrades and service changes along with the gradual reassignment, recycling and replacement of each unit.

Perfecting the Cycle

This program results in constant improvements in cost efficiency and quality. The cycle of procurement, monitoring, service and replacement includes data collection and analysis of all aspects of company communications. Telecom managers apply this information to the next cycle, selecting appropriate hardware, services and agreements based on the most comprehensive, up to date information. This virtuous cycle of self correction provides the best possible solution.

Technology Managed Through Technology

Telecom lifecycle management depends on accurate, information that can be sorted, connected and applied to management decisions. This requires a specialized application, which is why it’s the newest telecom expense management method. Tele-Watch is our technology for lifecycle management, and it not only tracks data for telecom experts, but for non-specialist managers as well.

Four Steps to Troubleshoot Your Mobile Handset

Every long time wireless user has encountered a “cursed phone.” One of the functions of complete mobile device management is to keep these experiences to a minimum and when necessary, get the unit upgraded or replaced as quickly as possible. We help clients with virtually every problem, whether they need information on how to use a service or have a more serious situation at hand, such as billing irregularities or a broken handset.

troubleshooting wireless

Not all problems are so obvious

Don’t hesitate to call – but did you know that you can take several steps to deal with problems yourself, without needing to be an expert? The secret is to understand how to narrow down an issue to a definite cause – something called “reducing to the solution.” To do this, you rule out possible causes in a logical order, “reducing” the number of possible causes. For phones, try the following process, step by step:

1) Check the Power

Many problems can be caused by low or intermittent power and sometimes, software doesn’t do a good job of displaying true power levels. Take the time to fully charge your phone and check if the problem is still there. If the phone won’t charge across at least two outlets, there’s definitely a power issue with the battery or adapter.

2) Check the Network

Contact your carrier to check on network status in your area. You may discover an outage or that your coverage defaults to a lower level of service. If the problem goes away when your phone connects to a full service network, then the network is the source of your problem – not the phone.

3) Check Your Settings

You may have accidentally changed your phone’s settings, or suffered an unanticipated side effect from changing them intentionally. Go through each menu and look for settings that are different from the default, factory settings. Change them back. If that fixes the problem, great!

4) Check Your Software

Back up any saved information and files on your phone, and install the latest version of its software (iPhone OS, Android, etc.). If you already have the latest version, reinstall that. If this doesn’t solve your problem, perform a “clean” installation if you can to put the phone back to basic factory and carrier settings.

Once you’ve done all of the above, you should end up with a working phone or one that needs professional help. By recording these steps, support staff will know what the problem isn’t and your phone will be repaired that much faster.

Get to Know Your Canadian Carriers

Since 2008’s Advanced Wireless Spectrum Auction there’s been a great deal of excitement about new carriers coming in to compete with Canada’s “Big Three” of Bell, Telus and Rogers. This is sure to open up new telecom expense management opportunities and might just lead to lower prices overall for Canadians. With lukewarm competition at best, the Canadian wireless industry inflicted some of the highest prices in the developed world for core services, offering little advantage between carriers beyond occasional coverage considerations.

Canadian Telecom Expense Management

Not all Canadian carriers are who they appear to be

If you’re a Canadian wireless user, you may be wondering why we’re only talking about a handful of companies. What about the discount providers and other brands you keep seeing on TV? Aren’t they competitors? Nope. Most of them are Big Three brands or resellers. Here’s how it breaks down.

Bell Mobility: In Canada, Virgin Mobile is a Bell brand, used under license. Solo and PC Mobile are both independent resellers operating on Bell’s network.

Telus: Koodo Mobile is Telus’ discount brand. Mike is a Telus brand that uses push to talk technology.

Rogers: Rogers resells to 7-Eleven, Petro-Canada and Sears. Its own discount brand is called Fido.

Bell, Telus and Rogers have designed their pricing to be comparable with each other (there is virtually no difference in pricing for similar data plans, for example) and to close loopholes that might be allowed if you purchased phone on one carrier brand and used it on another. Resellers must take their own costs into account with their rates, and the Big Three have managed to prevent deep discounts from that source.

Fortunately, careful telecom expense management can find the best plan for a company based on its desired handsets, services and location – specifics that vary enough to create savings compared to simple head to head comparisons.

But competition is coming. WIND Mobile and now Public Mobile have thrown down their gauntlets to compete, shunning the Big Three’s traditional contracts and rates, but they currently have small coverage areas outside of a few major cities. How do they compare?

WIND Mobile has a limited number of phones available because it uses the Advanced Wireless Spectrum, and its coverage is currently limited to the Greater Toronto Area along with the Ottawa and Calgary regions. It is expanding, however, and phones can be used in “away zones” covered by Rogers for additional fees. WIND offers unlimited data and other benefits, but these only provide real savings in coverage areas.

Public Mobile is focused on basic consumer phones – it’s not set up for business use. Its coverage includes Windsor, Toronto and Quebec City, with more additions on the way. Due to its basic, consumer focus, it probably isn’t the right choice for most businesses.

More carriers can only mean more choice, competition and savings in the Canadian market, so we welcome new players, even if we wouldn’t necessarily recommend them.

Are You Getting the Best Internet Speed on Your Smartphone?

smartphone speed mobile management

Not all signal bars are created equal

Many people think their mobile device determines how fast their wireless Internet’s going to be. Phone manufacturers emphasize this by highlighting new hardware and software, such as the iPhone 3GS (according to Steve Jobs, the “S” stands for “Speed”). But your smartphone is only part of the equation when it comes to speedy web page loads and data transmission. If your company’s mobile management plan relies on high speed data transfer you need to consider what your phone will be able to do.

Your carrier’s network is the ultimate limit on data transfer speeds. A fast phone will still slow down on an older network.

How do networks and phones interact to determine your data transfer speed? We field questions about this every day. Let’s answer a few for you now.

Would the data on my Blackberry be slower than on an iPhone or Android phone?

Older Blackberries and phones are limited to slower networks, so if you’re on the second or third year of a contract you might be stuck with legacy technology such as the EDGE network. Newer Blackberries along with iPhones and Android handsets can use faster 3G networks such as Bell and Telus’ HSDPA, but there’s a catch: You need to be in range on the newer network.

In many areas you’ll be stuck with EDGE or other slower protocols, ultimately defaulting to basic GSM with no data access at all. New phones will still work, but at a reduced speed. Make sure you know your area’s coverage before you count on high transfer speeds.

What about Wi-Fi?

Some smartphones (including the iPhone – check the model of any phone you plan to get) can also connect to nearby Wi-Fi hot spots. Some carriers (such as Bell in Canada) operate Wi-Fi in busy areas. Otherwise, you can make use of Starbucks, home Wi-Fi, work Wi-Fi and other options. The great thing about Wi-Fi is that it doesn’t count as data transfer through your phone for billing purposes and it’s fast. The disadvantage is that older phones can’t connect through Wi-Fi, and it may not be available in all areas.

How can I tell what degree of coverage I have in my area?

First thing’s first: Ask carriers about their coverage in areas you plan on using your phone before you sign a contract! Once you have your phone out and about, the display will show what type of connection is available. This will normally display as follows:

3G: Indicates a 3G connection is available. This will only appear on 3G capable handsets.

EDGE: Indicates a slower EDGE (2G) connection is available.

edge (“lowercase edge”): Indicates only a GSM connection is available, with no data transfer.

Wi-Fi Symbol: The Wi-Fi symbol appears in Wi-Fi capable phones in range of a nearby network. You will be prompted to enter login information for any unfamiliar network. You can sometimes set up familiar networks (home, work) to connect automatically.

We hope this clears up some confusion and helps you find plans with the best data transfer speeds.

Telecom Expense Management vs. Telecom Audits: Tracking the Industry

Telecom Audits and Expense ManagementThrough Tele-Watch, GILL Technologies specializes in complete telecom expense management solutions. Telecom audits are part of the telecom expense management process, but many people think that’s the whole thing. An auditor looks through your bill, for errors and other issues, and gets them corrected. Simple! Unfortunately, while a pure telecom audit helps, it doesn’t get you the best cost reduction on wireless or other telecom billing.

"Telecom expense management means more than auditing phone bills"

One of the key differences you’ll find by opting for a 360 degree telecom expense management service such as Tele-Watch is its ability to take advantage of opportunities in an evolving telecommunications industry. The industry is constantly changing, and just looking at your bill, while helpful, won’t provide the best cost reduction opportunities. For example, while auditing your bill weeds out unneeded expenses based on contracts offered by your current carrier, but what if someone new comes in with a better deal? Canadian businesses are currently experiencing this in the wake of last year’s Canadian wireless spectrum auction. The old “big three” acquired as much spectrum as possible and swallowed other purchasers, but they couldn’t get everyone. That’s opened the door for new players such as WIND Mobile. Like many of the new wave of carriers, WIND is currently building its network from centers in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. Other new carriers are only now setting up their infrastructures, getting hardware and planning their pricing. In Canada, carriers have never been particularly competitive so there’s plenty of room for innovation and price slashing. Expect to see better pricing, more unlimited plans and better contract terms. These won’t just come from new players, either; established carriers will have to improve their contracts to match their competitors.

A telecom audit may ensure your billing improves by the standards of your current plan, but true telecom expense management tries to get you the best rates available in the entire industry. We do that by keeping abreast of the industry for new developments. When we spot these opportunities we can provide a range of options, or just automatically implement the most cost effective without changing your phone numbers of services. While your bill will be audited, we can also perform migrations between carriers and renegotiations so that your company can take advantages of the latest developments in the industry.

 

Mobile Management Goes Hands Free – It’s the Law

Bluetooth for Hands Free WirelessMobile management is a mandatory part of any company that puts employees on the road. This goes beyond wireless cost reduction into the basics of day to day operations, including how and when staff make wireless calls in the field. Across Canada, these businesses need to wake up to a new requirement: hands free calling. Last year, PEI, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia all enacted laws against hands on wireless calls while driving. Here at GILL Technologies, we handle upgrades and procurements for clients through our ClientCare service. We pursue bulk orders through select suppliers to get the best prices on new hardware such as Bluetooth sets, but more importantly we know how to make the hardware fit with your phones, and whether you’ll need additional services (such as voice activation) to build a seamless solution.

We also provide carrier liaison and technical support to make the transition as easy as possible. If you need upgrades to comply with the new rules, contact usand don’t wait. The Saskatchewan and BC bans went into effect on January 1st, 2010 the PEI ban hit on January 23rd, and Ontario’s legislation went into full effect this week. A growing awareness of the way hands-on wireless habits affect roads safety makes it likely that the ban will eventually turn universal. Many US states are also likely to adopt stringent regulations, or reinterpret existing rules to clamp down on hands on mobile use. If your workforce is on the road it’s time for you to invest in Bluetooth headsets and other tools to allow legal, hands free calling. While jurisdictions may apply new rules in various ways, we recommend going with a totally hands free calling solution that includes a combination of Bluetooth and voice activated features. Some hardware now allows for hands free text and email, with a device reading these items to you. No matter the exact requirements, the important thing is to remember that these new regulations exist for a reason: Studies have shown that driving while distracted by a phone call (and believe it or not, texting, email and smartphone use, as some foolhardy drivers actually access these on the road) is equivalent to driving while moderately to severely impaired by alcohol. In other words, if you’re using your hands, you’re as dangerous as a drunk driver. Going hands free is the legal, responsible choice – and it’s important to avoid liability in case one of your employees has an accident on the road. If a staff member gets caught with a company phone, no headset and evidence that he or she was in the middle of a hands on call . . . well, to say that’s bad for you would be an understatement.

Mobile Management in 2010

Mobile management is a swiftly evolving field, where effective solution providers need to stay aware of the latest business, technology and regulatory trends to offer the very best services. At GILL Technologies we need to do a little more than just pay attention to products and billing, however, because we also offer technical and service support through our ClientCare program, where people like Amy and Tara help clients with everything from setting up a new mobile phone to migrating entire fleets to new carriers.

Now that 2010 is here and CES has come and gone, it’s time to talk about some of the new trends that will affect mobile management this year. Some of these developments promise to save money – and others represent new costs to control.

Android Phones: An explosion in wireless powered by Google’s Android OS has brought an explosion of choice into the cell phone market, as well as a powerful mobile management opportunity on the procurement front. Blackberry may still be the best for certain business functions but it and the iPhone aren’t the only practical choices any more. Key phones to watch include Motorola’s Droid (known as the Milestone in Canada) and the Google/HTC Nexus One. Beyond these there are dozens of new phones in all price ranges – and you may need professional mobile management to find the right one for you.

Carrier Competition: GILL Technologies provides mobile management solutions in both the US and Canada, so we took careful note when the government decided to permit WIND Mobile to operate in Canada. WIND’s bringing genuine competition to a market that’s been dominated by the “big three” of Bell, Rogers and Telus. WIND has thrown down the gauntlet with significantly cheaper wireless internet and competitive voice packages – but as of January 2010 it still doesn’t have a significant network outside of Toronto and Calgary. Competition is heating up in the US as well with the highly publicized advertising war between AT&T and Verizon over who really has the best 3G network.

Carrier-Subsidized Computers: Now that virtually every carrier offers mobile Internet, many have taken the next step and begun to subsidize netbooks and laptops with the purchase of a wireless Internet contract. This development will prove to be especially important this year as several companies release new devices designed specifically for this purpose. This includes the rumoured Apple iSlate tablet and several other computers with the tablet form factor. From a mobile expense management perspective, the challenge will be to help clients identify what they need out of these devices before finding ne that best fits the profile.

4G Internet: In Canada, Bell and Telus are cooperating to offer fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband. In the US, Verizon and Sprint have just begun to offer it in selected cities. From a mobile management perspective, the question is whether signing on for a 4G plan early meets a genuine business need, and whether competing carriers are offering a reliable, cost-effective service.

We’re looking forward to these challenges and opportunities in the year ahead. If you’d like to find out how we can help you with them from a mobile management perspective, Contact us.

Season’s Greetings from GILL Technologies

Please note that our offices will be on vacation until January 4th, 2010. Until then . . . Christmas Card 2009Web