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Experts warn businesses not to over-buy on unlimited data plans

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 16, 2017
New Verizon Unlimited plan applies to companies with up to 50 workers

"If my company were small and didn't have the staff to manage wireless accounts, a $45 monthly unlimited plan that included a device subsidy would be eye-opening, but at $72 for a device and monthly access, that's not really a compelling price for a company," Nziolke said.

Large enterprise customers typically work with either AT&T or Verizon in the U.S. for wireless service contracts that cover hundreds or even thousands of employees. AT&T said its unlimited plan is currently unavailable to business customers and is now for consumers on wireless plans who also have a DirecTV or U-verse subscription.

Sprint provides unlimited data plans for small businesses, while T-Mobile said all business customers will have access to unlimited data and other new features as of this Friday. However, both carriers are far smaller than AT&T and Verizon in the wireless market for business.

T-Mobile has spurred interest in unlimited data plans and forced other carriers to follow suit, but it has not won as many business customers as it could have, he added. That's because businesses that Nziolek have consulted with have voiced concerns about T-Mobile's network coverage outside of the big cities where the carrier's networks are strongest.

"T-Mobile has been very aggressive on prices and strong in metro centers, but has fragmented coverage outside the metros," he said. "If you have a sales force that has to travel point to point, we've had customers who have seen their traveling sales teams struggle."

Nziolek said he's confident that Verizon can handle the burden of unlimited customers sapping network capacity with HD video viewing and other heavy data uses. "Verizon's network won't bog down," he said. "If Verizon experiences any congestion problems, they will adjust the device threshold of that 22GB throttle."

Eventually, Nziolek said he believes smartphones will become far more expensive and users will upgrade them more frequently than now. That trend, in turn, will cause Verizon and other carriers to drop completely out of offering device subsidies for enterprises -- leaving business customers to help employees buy their phones on their own entirely or join with customer smartphone buying consortiums for better deals.

"When the day comes that a company can't get a device subsidy, then the US$45 monthly unlimited plan could be more compelling," he said.


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