Telecom Expense Management for Regular Folks

At GILL Technologies, we handle large telecom expense management accounts from major corporations but our experience includes small departments and local businesses, too – and we all like to save money on our home phone bills. You can still use corporate techniques to rein in cell phone plans and long distance fees, provided you’re willing to do the legwork. Here’s what you do:

Don’t Believe the Hype – Put Your Trust in CPM: Cost per minute (CPM) is the greatest, if not the only thing to measure – period! Every major carrier works hard to convince you that if you go with them, your phone will have better coverage, load web pages faster, sound nicer, and give your phone more features. We don’t want to call anyone a liar¸ so let’s just say that these are very, very naughty things to foist on the public. In most cases, carrier choice has no effect on quality of service. A lot of ads try to take credit for features that are either hardware-based or depend on the telecom infrastructure. The carrier doesn’t matter.

When it comes to landlines, every carrier offers virtually identical services at the same quality. For example, no carrier can really guarantee superior long distance voice quality. (Think about it: Do North American carriers have any way of controlling what the lines are like in China?)

As consumers, you’ve got to be cold blooded about counting CPM and nothing else. After all, the phone companies are pretty ruthless about seeing how much money they can extract from your bank account. Good service or bad, they are not your buddies – even if their ads have lots of cute, funny animals.

. . . Except for Internet (Sort of): There is one exception to the “don’t believe the hype” rule: Internet and data. Here, proprietary networks do matter. You can’t get third generation (3G) services from everyone, anywhere. IPhones (older ones are kind of “2.5G phones” in many respects, newer ones are true 3G) aren’t supported by every carrier, either. When it comes to home Internet, you’ve got to balance costs with your household’s needs – and make do with the options available in your area.

That’s why home Internet is a pretty complicated topic – and why providers try to “dumb it down” and “help” you choose their service, when there may be better options around. For instance, if you live in a rural area your local phone company might offer you dialup for no other reason than this is what they can give you, even though wireless high-speed or satellite providers could get you better service. If you have landline broadband service, weigh the benefits of ADSL versus cable Internet. The “A” in ADSL stands for “asynchronous,” which is a fancy way of saying that uploads are going to be slower than downloads. Cable uploads are still slower than downloads, but this is usually less onerous – until you hit the bandwidth cap for your package. Plus, some networks have better tech support and less frequent downtimes.

If you’re considering Voice over IP (VoIP), your Internet connection’s reliability is a big deal. If the Net’s down, your phone down – and that includes 911.

Handshakes Won’t Save Money – Discipline Will: Buying telecom service isn’t like grabbing a couch or a DVD player from a commissioned sales agent. In department stores, salespeople might have some wiggle room to get you a better deal, but at a cell phone kiosk, agents usually can’t try to save you extra cash. One of the reasons telecom expense management is so important for companies is that telecom agents usually sign agreements promising not to optimize your expenses. They stick to standard plans and won’t take the initiative to investigate billing errors or new service bundles. Don’t blame them for it though. Their hands are tied. If you’re running a business it’s time to call us so that we can perform a telecom audit, research new agreements and plan you a better deal, but individuals need to take matters into their own hands. If you’ve got the discipline, you’ll save money.

Your main advantage here is that you’re a consumer in a competitive market. Companies flood the market with introductory offers for every service under the sun. These often rely on poor consumer discipline. They hook people in with six months of savings and hope they won’t bother canceling after prices go up.

Want to save money? First of all, make sure to look over offers from all carriers. You might even have to double check exactly who services your region, as carriers don’t like to talk about who covers where. Secondly, filter introductory offers by the expected commitment. If you get a few months of cheap cellular or internet service at the price of a locked-in, multi-year contract, don’t take the deal. Finally, read the fine print to ward off possible complications.

Once you’ve used these criteria to grab a set of likely deals, sign up for one – and get out as soon as the savings run out. Cancel preauthorized payments and generate a paper trail to keep your provider from chasing you. Somebody may grumble at you over the phone, but remember: It’s a consumer/provider relationship! They’re out to maximize profits, so you need to minimize expenses. That’s common sense – and the foundation of good telecom expense management at any scale.

About the Author: Malcolm Sheppard is a researcher for GILL Technologies.


  1. Fantastic site, I really like your writing style. Very distinctive and concise. On a lot of blogs people just drone on and on, but not you – very nice. Keep up the excellent work! I find wireless phone technology very interesting. I have learned a lot in implementing a small VoIP network at home, and am thinking of starting VoIP business in my area. There are a number of small businesses in my region that would benefit from it greatly.


  1. says:

    Telecom Expense Management for Regular Folks…

    At GILL Technologies, we handle large telecom expense management accounts from major corporations but our experience includes small departments and local businesses,too – and we all like to save money on our home phone bills.You can still use corpora…