Your Telco bills are about to go up a lot due to coronavirus. Are you prepared?

With the unprecedented shift to working from home, we’re all using our mobiles much more, and that means there’s now a big risk of bill shock.

Dog and Bone have a specialist independent telecommunications management service, we call it TMaaS (Telecommunications Management as a Service), which is dedicated to managing client’s mobile fleets.

The team has been flat out managing the dramatic surge and this is what we have noticed:

  • Data Usage has increased by at least 75% for most clients, up to 135% in extreme cases.

  • Some clients’ mobile costs are up 200%!

  • We expect this to only increase, given that for the last month most of our clients only had their staff off site for half the month.

  • Fixed data networks (especially so with our reliance on these networks for voice) are also showing signs of strain, causing increased mobile usage as a backup.

We saw a huge spike in mobile data usage for our clients in March, during the huge shift to remote working.

According to the TMaaS team they have not had one client that wasn’t set to exceed their existing data allowance for March. While this is no surprise considering the impact of COVID-19, and the enormous proportion of Australians that have shifted to working from home, it is important that steps be taken by vendors and customers alike to mitigate against dramatic excess data charges. Here is a brief summary of what you need to know about the data surge and how to manage it:

  • Both Telstra and Optus have announced that they are providing extra data to ‘facilitate the need for a more mobile workforce’. Several smaller providers, such as Vaya, are offering unlimited data. However, so far only individual consumers and small businesses are eligible. The big carriers are yet to announce extra data allowances for Not For Profit or corporate organisations. To date we’re not aware of TPAMS25 (the Victorian State Government pricing plan) customers receiving additional mobile data allowance.

  • Easily the single most important step any organisation can take is to ensure that their mobile fleet has a Shared Data Allowance. This is always vital, but even more so at the current time. This means that all (or most) mobile plans (both voice and data) share their individual data allowance to create a common pool that all users can access. A shared data allowance reduces costs and makes managing a mobile fleet considerably easier.

  • Make sure you’re familiar with your vendors ‘fair use policies’.

  • It is crucial that organisations are proactive with their mobile data management. This is especially true given that the ‘live’ data tracking provided by most carriers isn’t necessarily live; with Telstra for instance there can be up to a forty-eight-hour lag in reporting. Thus by the time you get close to reaching your data allowance you may already have exceeded it. It’s important to get out in front of this.

  • Previously, as a general rule we advised creating a data buffer of a min of 20% (the larger the fleet the smaller buffer you can tolerate, as a rule and most of Dog and Bone’s clients have significant fleets). That is, have an overall data allowance that is at least 20% higher than your organisation’s average data usage: if you use 100GB per month, maintain a data allowance of 120GB. We now advise that you maintain a buffer of at least 50% (or even higher). Data usage in April is likely to be even higher than in March (since we only shifted to remote working in mid-March). In most cases, an organisation’s average data usage can be worked out from the most recent electronic billing.

If you are at a loss as to how to manage this unprecedented increase in data usage or have too much on your plate as your organisation tries to adapt to the new circumstances, feel free to reach out to us about how this can be best managed.

How We Manage Mobile Data

With Shared Data Allowances, it might seem counter-intuitive, but it doesn’t generally matter how much data any individual user requires. It only matters how much data the organisation as a whole requires. Unlimited plans complicate this somewhat and often some plans don’t aggregate with overall fleet.

Often the model that is suggested by vendors is to put everyone on an unlimited plan with large data packs. While this can deliver a fleet that is easier to manage for the client, it is often a costly benefit. For small fleets (say sub 50) then this approach has more merit, as the extra management costs may not covered by the savings of a fully optimised fleet.

Optimised Mobile Fleets

By far the best way to manage costs with a large organisation’s mobile phones and data services is to optimise the fleet, and then manage it. An optimised fleet is in basic terms where you try to manage the usage of the service with the pricing plan from the vendor, overlaid with the above data considerations.

For example: An emergency phone in a community bus’s glove box would have a very low plan, with no data, and the CEO might have one that provides additional benefits like international calls or global roaming (not much use right now!).

It sounds complicated, well it is. To really optimise a fleet you need specialist software or maybe a maths genius with some time on their hands. We know this because 18 years ago we started with a maths genius and got them to build a software program to optimise fleets.

We consistently find that this model delivers 20-35% additional cost reduction, even when using the existing contract and when the fleet is large this is more than enough to compensate for the extra management overhead.

Sing out if you’ve got a fleet that you are interested at looking into cost reduction opportunities for.