Most organisations pay too much for their mobile phones. The way mobile carriers make their revenues is by being a little smarter than the customer.
They offer a series of different usage plans and the customer chooses one. But customers are usually ill-informed and careless. They do not always choose the most appropriate plan for their level of usage. So they end up paying too much - in some cases way too much.
In the US, for example, 22 per cent of mobile phone revenues derive from customers being on the wrong plan. The mobile carriers even have a term for it: 'breakage'.
Overpaying is particularly prevalent in large organisations, many of which have issued hundreds or even thousands of mobile phones to their staff.
Individual consumers have their regular bills as an incentive to manage their phone use, but the corporate customer doesn't care too much about the cost and may not even see the bill.
In the US, the need to manage mobile costs has given rise to a whole new business. The situation is fairly difficult to manage anyway, with six national mobile carriers and as many as 300 small operators that work through the major carriers.
There are many different types of billing systems and the situation is generally out of control.
Traq Wireless, a software start-up from Texas, saw this as an opportunity and set up an ASP-based service to gather the data, analyse it and optimise the corporate use of mobile phones.
It is proving to be a popular service; the firm now has 75 customers and seems to be doubling in size each year.
Let's deal with the stark facts first. Traq Wireless has discovered that in corporate America, between seven and 10 per cent of the mobile phones are not being used, even though the rental is being paid. In one company with a high turnover of staff the figure reached 40 per cent.
Traq expects to save customers up to 35 per cent of the bill, which in the US averages something like $1,250 per phone per year. Consequently, it expects to deliver return on investment on the cost of its service within three to six months.
There are quite a few areas where mobile costs can be trimmed, from controlling personal use to getting the most sensible service for the executive traveller.
Some executives are known to rack up bills in the thousands of dollars per month, often quite needlessly.
So Traq provides a fully automated analysis and optimisation service, collecting the bills on behalf of companies, analysing them and reporting on what needs to be done to keep down costs.
It is implemented through a website that the customer can access to examine the reports that Traq provides.
Traq also keeps up with all the plans from all the providers, which change with bewildering frequency.
There is a continual tactical battle going on, with the carriers inventing new plans to maximise their customer revenues and Traq responding by minimising the costs for its smaller customer base.
Traq is likely to bring its business to Europe, where it says the same type of sub-optimal mobile usage is occurring. The parameters are different but the game is the same. However, that won't happen for about six months.
The firm wants to gear up its software to deal with the European facts of life, starting with the UK.
There is a wider strategic consequence to what Traq is doing here. It is easy to think of it as a company with analysis software that has seen an opportunity and is exploiting it.
However, in reality it is sitting over an emergent and rapidly growing part of the corporate network. If you boil it down, Traq is really a systems management company that focuses on the wireless device space.
It already allows its customers to register PDAs and laptops in its database, and in the medium term it will probably move towards gathering information on device configuration, applications, licensing issues and the efficient use of ASP services.
In other words, we can eventually expect to see Traq Wireless mentioned in the same breath as Computer Associates or Tivoli.
Interestingly enough, the chief executive of Traq Wireless, James Offerdahl, was one of the original entrepreneurs who founded Tivoli. He and his company have their eyes on a bigger prize than managing mobile phone bills.
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