Wireless Price War a Boon to Enterprise Mobility
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The fixed-rate war raging between wireless service providers could benefit enterprises that aim to save money and gain even deeper data and Internet services for mobile workforces.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile ignited a pricing battle two weeks ago when all three announced fixed-price unlimited calling plans for $99.99. T-Mobile even added unlimited texting.
Sprint Nextel remained eerily quiet until yesterday when it rolled out unlimited voice, data, text, e-mail, Web access, GPS service, as well as Sprint TV, Sprint Music, and Direct Connect and Group Connect options in one plan for the same price.
In a statement, Dan Hesse, Sprint president and CEO, said the plan reflects the sea change in cellular services and users' data needs.
"Wireless today is about much more than just voice. It is about data services. Customers want these applications," he stated. Sprint says the move to unlimited plans that include data signifies an industry turning point.
"Nationally accepted measures of voice quality now show very little, if any, difference among the top wireless providers," the provider acknowledged in its statement.
And that simple statement is exactly why enterprises are in a great position when it comes to shoring up data services at more economical prices, say industry experts.
The price battle proves "data is the new voice" and that "today's cell phone is tomorrow's smartphone," Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, told InternetNews.com. Both trends, he said, bode well for corporate mobility needs.
Enterprises should call their providers and begin negotiating better price point and data service plans.
"It's time to crack open that existing deal and realize some cost savings. IT leaders should be asking their providers 'what are you going to do for me?' And they should be prepared to jump to another carrier as it could prove very cost-effective," said Levy, who expects prices to keep dropping.
"IT needs to be proactive and get the biggest bang for their technology buck. Mobility is a critical business tool," he said.
But whether data services become a fixed price option anytime soon is up to the carriers. Verizon Wireless recently announced a new "unlimited" data plan that has a maximum cutoff at 5GB. Users who go beyond that will pay 49 cents for every megabyte of data over the limit and could get their throughput reduced.
Levy compares this type of strategy to the initial ISP approach when the Web came into play. At that time most ISPs offered minutes-based pricing plans. The industry, Levy said, finally realized that charging per minute wasn't the best business strategy.
"That was a ridiculous approach -- using a meter to charge people -- and it's the same now with data minutes," he said. "Providers need to offer an 'all you can drink' data plan for the enterprise."
And given Sprint Nextel's "brilliant" marketing move, the analyst expects such changes could come quick.
"Competitors can't afford to stand on the sidelines at this point," Levy said. "They all have to balance marketing efforts with better data plans and expanded coverage as mobile workers expect to have service wherever they are."