Feature Article

April 23, 2012

Mobile Data Consumption Leading to 'Bill Shock' for American and European Corporations

We’ve all heard the horror stories. A cell phone user surfs the Web, uploads an app or makes a series of calls outside of their coverage area and gets hit with a massive, near laughable monthly statement.

The all-too-common occurrence is called “bill shock” – something that as many as 30 million Americans have experienced in one form or another, according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The issue is even more prevalent in Europe, where consumers are often forced to pay excessive mobile roaming charges when traveling outside of their home country.

The FCC has received thousands of complaints regarding outlandish cell phone charges, several of which were for more than $10,000, with the largest monthly statement reaching an astounding $68,505.

While the FCC and the European Commission are taking steps to help prevent bill shock, average mobile data consumption continues to escalate, particularly among enterprises employees who spend a great deal of time on the road.

This topic was recently explored by Forbes’ Tero Kuittinen, who warns that soaring monthly data usage among travelling employees may soon become a major concern for corporations.

Between the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011, mobile data consumption among corporate employees in Europe increased from 52 MB to 55 MB. However, over the next six months, average monthly data usage increased to around 75 MB – a fairly high number considering a significant percentage of employees rarely use any data.

“The strong uptick evident in 2H11 reflected truly prodigal mobile data consumption levels of a small group of employees,” Kuittinen writes. “It’s not unusual to see monthly usage reports where several individual employees rack up more than $700 in monthly mobile data billing.”

So what’s the reason for the recent uptick in mobile data consumption? The answer, according to Kuittinen, is the escalation in smartphone adoption among lower-level employees who were previously issued cheaper feature phones. Simply put, a higher percentage of employees are now armed with phones capable of racking up enormous overage and roaming charges.

Options for combating corporate bill shock include SIM card allocation, Wi-Fi mandates and partnering with mobile device management companies, says Kuittinen, who believes corporate mobile data usage is “definitely something worth keeping an eye on.”

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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