Easy on those mega speeds

Bell Canada’s new 3G cellular service in Toronto and Montreal is the first step in a plan to make 3G available across Bell’s national wireless network. And competing carriers like Rogers and Telus are also close to rolling out their own 3G offerings. At first glance, the availability of these much-anticipated 3G services provides a big boost to enterprises with large mobile workforces.

3G means faster download speeds — in Bell’s case average speeds of 400Kbps to 700Kbps with a peak of 2.4Mbps — which will let field workers complete their work faster. In some cases, the increased bandwidth will allow enterprises to launch new mobile applications that wouldn’t otherwise have worked well.

But there’s also a flip side to the faster download speeds 3G offers. Bigger bandwidth also means bigger bills. If users can access information faster, it’s likely they’ll also be accessing more information. And where new applications are launched to take advantage of 3G speeds, the airtime expenses generated by the enterprise will be entirely new.

And then there’s roaming. Everyone’s experienced, or at least heard of, obscenely high bills generated by employees using their cell phone or PDA to access information while on the road and roaming on another carrier’s network. With the speeds 3G offers, these roaming disasters could multiply as employees grow accustomed to checking e-mail and accessing corporate information at any time, from anywhere.

To prevent 3G services from becoming a billing nightmare, telecom managers are going to need a firm grasp of how 3G services will be billed, whether it’s per minute or per megabit. Telecom managers are also going to need to build profiles of how the average employee will use 3G services. How much information will they download and upload? At what times will they be using 3G? Will they use 3G when roaming and how much will they use it?

Fortunately it’s not in a wireless carrier’s best interests to bamboozle an enterprise customer into spending too much on wireless services. If that happens the customer is likely to end their contract and head off to a competitor. Enterprise customers should find their carriers willing to work with them to figure out what kind of charges the enterprise could expect if it made 3G available to its employees.

There are also a number of software packages that help enterprises track and control their telecom expenses. And there’s no shortage of telecom consultants in Canada who can help enterprises rein in growing telecom bills.

The bottom line is 3G does provide an opportunity for enterprises to improve their business models, especially when it comes to offering new and better applications to mobile workforces. But enterprises can’t just switch to 3G without planning for the impact that switch will have on their wireless expenses or they could be in for a very rude awakening.

QuickLink: 051829

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