Sprint Corp. is offering corporate customers wireless data service-level agreements that provide performance metrics based on dropped or blocked sessions and network availability.
The SLAs, much like those Sprint provides for wireless voice services, offer customers a credit of 10 percent of the monthly recurring charge if service levels are not met. Sprint provides SLA metrics, and enterprise users are responsible for monitoring them online.
Sprint officials said the process will become easier as reporting procedures and billing systems get better. "The idea ... is to get something of value out there and continue enhancing that," said Barry Tishgart, senior director of product management for Sprint, in Overland Park, Kan. "We can continue to improve SLAs, and we will do that over time."
One drawback to the current SLAs is that metrics are based on nationwide levels; if performance lags for users in an area but remains above average nationwide, a business will not get credit. The SLAs apply only to corporate accounts, not to individual corporate employees who buy their own phones and plans. They apply only to network performance, officials said.
The SLAs arent perfect, but the Sprint offering could help enterprises demand better quality of service, corporate IT users said. "I do see service-level agreements as ... important for the near and intermediate term, [but] this assumes the SLAs are set appropriately, based on the need for service," said Stephen Fugale, CIO of Villanova University, in Villanova, Pa. "As we see an increasing number of cellular users enterprisewide, we are contemplating the elimination of some wired desk phones. This now makes service availability critical to user adoption. In our case, we negotiated a service-level warranty into the contract, but it is vague."
"In general, I find service-level agreements to be an effective way to hold vendors accountable," said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School, in Boston. "If objective metrics are made available transparently to customers, then vendor organizations have a clear goal to meet and customers have tangible evidence of service-quality problems that can be used to seek remuneration."
While Sprint is the first carrier to offer set nationwide SLAs for all business customers, Cingular Wireless said it develops SLAs with corporate customers case by case. "Our current approach is to treat every request as unique and work with a customer to configure an SLA that meets its individual needs," said Cingular spokesperson John Kampfe in Atlanta.
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