Are Cell Phones a Racket?

I presented at the New York City Technology Forum and sat in on Dave Pogue’s keynote. Dave is the New York Times Personal-Technology Columnist and prolific author. He obviously has a flair for acting, dramatizing his technology insights, including ‘cell phones are a racket. You have to bet on how many minutes you are going to use, and if you guess too low you are … and if you guess too high, you are ….”.

My data tells me that enterprises around the world give service providers about $500M every year in exchange for bandwidth and connectivity services- well over 35% of this goes for cell services! While there is a lot of value in mobility, enterprises are looking at ways to reduce and at least better manage these recurring costs.

What you don’t know, you can’t manage.

Do you know how much your company is spending on cell charges? If the answer is no, then you better get a handle on this significant expense and, in any case, look at ways to reduce it.

IT-101 tells you that managing your service providers is a good place to start. Technology can help on two fronts: reducing local and LD minutes, and reducing out-of-plan roaming charges. Extending PBX features to your cell allows you to carry your calls over your internal network, thus avoiding toll charges. Any way to leverage the Internet (at home, at hotels, and hotspots) can also be the path for lowering your cell charges. This includes using your laptop or leveraging dual mode devices.

In either case, the end user is king. You have to incent him/her to change their behavior by delivering benefits that outweigh the pain.

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It is absolutely correct, that modern day enterprise is spending a lion share of its telecom services costs on cell-phone related charges. It has been true in the past, that many carriers and independent vendors have tried to position new plans, cost management schemes, creative billing and promotions. Although, costs of the cell phones use and related charges are climbing up every year - we are living in a mobile "always on" society and demands for the workforce for productivity increase are not going to go anywhere.

What technology can help with, possibly will not lower the monthly bill (although, it is a noble task!), but delivering the best value for every cent spent by the enterprise on the wireless telecom services.

Desk phone feature parity, aggregated voice mail, presence support and low cost dialing options most likely will be the priorities.

In other words, it will not be that "if you've spent less/more than ... minutes, than ...", but rather how you've spent them. Efficiency can be achieved by avoiding checking multiple voice mail boxes, by avoiding the need for the customers to maintain multiple contacts for the same person, by supporting messaging prioritization, so that an important call gets through quickly. This is the future of true unified communications.

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