Verizon Wireless recently reported that they were following the lead of both AT&T and Sprint by charging their customers an extra fee to upgrade their mobile phones where in the past many mobile customers got a "free phone upgrade" every two years or so.
Following is the widely distributed Verizon statement:
“On April 22, Verizon Wireless is implementing a $30 upgrade fee for existing customers purchasing new mobile equipment at a discounted price with a two-year contract. This fee will help us continue to provide customers with the level of service and support they have come to expect which includes Wireless Workshops, online educational tools, and consultations with experts who provide advice and guidance on devices that are more sophisticated than ever. While the upgrade fee is not unique to Verizon Wireless, most devices can be traded in with our green friendly trade-in program at www.verizonwireless.com/tradein as a way to save money or potentially offset the fee completely.”
It's reported that Sprint and AT&T both are charging a similar $36 fee.
Time for "Wi-Fi First" or "Wi-Fi Only" Employee Cell Phones?
Now I'm no revolutionary. I understand that the CEO, the Chairman of the Board and your top salespeople (and your spouse) can have any damned expensive phone and usage plan they want and, as the company owner, you're (mostly) happy to pay for it.
But what about all those other W-2 folks hanging around your office who claim they need "smartphone mobility" to remain a critical business asset of yours? Do they all need an exensive monthly cellular data plan and the newest phones when they spend 90% of their waking hours inside a Wi-Fi network?
Probably not. (Time to get out the savings calculator and sharpen your pencils!)
What's a "Wi-Fi First" or "Wi-Fi Only" Cell Phone and Where Can You Get Them?
Well just as the name would imply, "Wi-Fi first" cell phones or smart phones use "free" Wi-Fi connectivity first over "expensive" 3G/4G cellular connectivity when trying to make a phone call or data app connection. "Wi-Fi only" phones only work for cell calls or data connections when connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Where do you get them? Let's just say that phone equipment makers are not exactly falling all over themselves to bring them to market. T-Mobile actually had a solution like this called HotSpot@Home that made smartphone calls over Wi-Fi but they discontinued the service back in 2010.
Republic Wireless, owned by rabble-rousing Bandwidth.com is the current standard bearer for the "Wi-Fi first" solution movement. If you're OK sticking your employees with a LG Optimus phone powered by Android 2.3 software (and waiting to get invited to their Beta test) then this might be your solution. Especially if you're thinking that $19 per month plus taxes (after a $200 setup fee) is about all you really want to pay for your employees to "deliver their value" when they're away from their desks.
But if you're thinking, "damn all the cell phone carriers - give me Wi-Fi only or nothing" then Samsung's Galaxy S WiFi 3.6 is the phone of your dreams. Initially not rolled out to the US market, it now appears that this disrupting little device will appear in the US in 2012 for under $200.
What's the Best Mobility Solution for Your Company? Call Us...
As we previously posted, there are many new wireless and cordless technologies that can cost effectively deliver your employee mobility needs even outside the cellular or WiFi realm.
Do you have a spread out campus environment? Are you in a multi-story building? How strong is your current WiFi or cellular signals? Quite a few variables come into play when trying to choose the most cost effective solution.
Please give us a call. We're happy to help you review the latest offerings and compare the benefits and costs to what you're using now or considering. We'll also share with you what our other clients are doing to meet their mobility needs.
Cell WiFi Phones Tutorial Web Page I found this page while researching this story. It appears to be written by someone who's spent quite a bit of time looking at the matter. It's a good tutorial.
Fon for Businesses If you're the owner of a multi-location business that already has a pretty tweaked out Wi-Fi network for your employees communication use, Fon lets you take it to the next level by securely sharing a piece of your WiFi network empire to Fon's global WiFi network in exchange for cash and expanded free connectivity for your own employees.
International Travel Tips Here's a NPR produced story with practical example of how a business traveler got burned by her smartphone while traveling overseas by cellular roaming charges when out of WiFi range.