Verizon, ATandT Family Data Plans Will Need Business Manager Attention

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-07-19

Verizon, ATandT Family Data Plans Will Need Business Manager Attention

The current debate that€™s swirling around the new rate plans that put voice and data into a single family pool from which several people with devices can draw may be great for families. But that depends on the family, how many wireless devices that need access to the data plans that they have and how much they use those devices. For some families, these plans can save a lot of money, for others, not so much.

But neither AT&T€™s Mobile Share Plan nor Verizon Wireless€™ Share Everything plan makes much sense for businesses of any real size. These plans have limits of up to 10 devices, and that means that either your company can€™t be very big, or you€™ll have to start dividing your employees into sharing groups€”a task that can be complex when you have employees come and go.

So while your employees are debating whether or not AT&T or Verizon Wireless has the best deal or whether they€™ll save money or not on their personal family sharing plans, chances are you won€™t care very much. That€™s until those employees come to you with their spreadsheets, lists of devices and a load of pent-up frustration. At least, you€™re not personally invested.

But eventually you will be. Unless your company is one of those that provides mobile devices to employees, then you€™re going to start seeing your employees who are part of your BYOD program coming to you about their reimbursements. This means you€™ll have to change your policy to how you pay your employees for their phone charges, since it won€™t be based on individual usage, or at least not exactly.

The advantage to you is that your employees will be charged a single rate per device that€™s not based on usage. It€™ll just be a flat fee. So you can base your reimbursement on that for employees who have one of these family plans. The good news is that the cost will probably be lower than what you€™re reimbursing now.

The bad news is the same as the good news. These plans aren€™t based on individual usage, so you aren€™t reimbursing an employee based on calling they did for your company, you€™re reimbursing them for their share of a family pool. Because the rate plans require some detailed analysis, it€™s likely that many of your employees will simply pick an unlimited rate. But still, the cost for reimbursement may be lower than what you€™re paying now.

On the other hand, if you€™re trying to control costs when you reimburse your employees, you might also want to suggest other carriers and other plans. There€™s been considerable discussion about Verizon€™s plan since the company isn€™t offering a nonsharing plan for new customers.

Businesses Have Many Options for Employee Mobile Plans


Some, including competitor T-Mobile suggest that Verizon€™s plan is both expensive and punitive. Every other carrier, including AT&T, offers individual plans in addition to the sharing plans. 

The problem for your business is that your employees can find themselves entering into a bewildering array of offers that may not meet the goals of your organization€™s cost-control efforts, and more importantly, may not meet your business€™ data and voice needs. Most businesses will find that the sharing plans don€™t work for business use at all, unless they€™re very small. €œWe expect small/medium businesses to show more interest in shared data plans than large enterprises,€ an AT&T spokesperson told eWEEK. A spokesperson for Verizon Wireless told eWEEK much the same thing, €œThe program is not designed for large enterprise interests.€

So in a way, your business is left with a quandary. Your employees are showing up with shared data plans and in some cases they may have a lower monthly cost than what they have now. That€™s good, since it will save you money when they file their expenses. But depending on the plan the employee picks, it might be more expensive. So what do you do?

First, consider setting an upper limit for reimbursements for monthly phone charges. Then, unless an employee gets permission to charge more (for international travel, perhaps), you know what your fixed costs will be. If the employee€™s teen who€™s sharing the plan runs up overage charges because of music videos, that€™s not your problem.

Second, consider getting a business plan for your employee devices. Depending on the size of your company, you can negotiate rates that can produce substantial savings, and offer services that aren€™t available on those family plans, such as push-to-talk. Both Verizon Wireless and AT&T have a broad range of wireless plans aimed at business users, and you don€™t need to buy a shared data plan.

And you can look at other carriers if their coverage and their data plans work for you. Sprint has its line of ruggedized push-to-talk phones that are ideal for many industries, for example, and the company has a highly flexible range of voice and data plans. T-Mobile meanwhile has just launched an aggressive set of business rate plans that are overage free. In addition, T-Mobile is offering low fixed-rate pricing for foreign travelers, so they don€™t get those nasty roaming charges when they get back from a quick trip to Europe.

In other words, the new shared data plans offered by Verizon and AT&T might save you money when you reimburse your employees, but they might not. Depending on the needs of your business, you might want to start thinking of other options when you€™re supporting BYOD devices in your business.

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