Globalization is not new but thanks to advances in mobile communications and collaboration technologies, enterprises can now work effectively across international borders. As the global mobile landscape continues to evolve, Europe is a hotbed of change. Companies based or operating in the EU should take a look at these five trends to inform enterprise mobility management decisions in 2023.
1 - Fierce competition gives rise to new and retooled rate plans.
Competition is heating up among mobile wireless providers in Europe. Major national carriers are competing fiercely to win enterprise and small and medium business (SMB) customers. They’re also facing new adversaries in mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and carrier resellers.
To win new business, mobile wireless providers have launched or repackaged offerings, such as unlimited, self-optimizing and pooling plans, that have proven popular because they promise to simplify contracts and generate cost savings. However, savvy buyers should look past the marketing message and read the fine print. Over time, customers may find that with all-in-one plans, they’re buying more than they need and paying more, not less. Well-managed standard mobile rate plans often prove to be more cost-effective and provide a better user experience.
When navigating European carrier plans, ask the following questions:
2 - European companies are shifting the hardware procurement paradigm.
- What’s included in an unlimited plan? Unlimited plans often exclude certain uses, like premium rate numbers or certain zones for international roaming. Compare what’s included in unlimited plans to your current usage profile to ensure you’re covered.
- Are you OK with potential data throttling? Unlimited plans often include a fair usage clause, enabling carriers to throttle data speed and/or increase pricing if users exceed the allowance.
- How much info do users need? If you move to an unlimited plan, take care to maintain usage caps for users. If they believe they have unlimited usage, they may use more, increasing your company’s consolidated usage volumes. This, in turn, can lead to increased costs either via an upcharge if you breach the fair usage threshold or at the contract negotiation stage with a rate increase. (Note: Fair usage thresholds are set by carriers to prevent unlimited plan subscribers from usage in excess of what is expected from a typical customer.)
- Does self-optimizing go both ways? As advertised, self-optimizing plans appear to be a good option. You only pay for what you need and don’t incur overage charges. However, many self-optimizing plans only optimize rates when usage peaks and not when usage returns to a lower level. This means that your plan shifts to a higher rate during peak usage, and remains at that higher rate, even though the extra data is no longer needed. Check your contract for options to optimize rate plans both up and down.
- Is there too much room in the pool? Pooled plans enable users to share voice and data allowances across their user base. However, companies often create a pool much larger than they need to protect against overages and account for increased demand. Unfortunately, this means many companies on pooled plans are paying for minutes and data they don’t use. Meticulously managing standard plans or enlisting a managed mobility provider to do it for you, is more cost-effective than defaulting to a pooled plan.
Traditionally, European companies would purchase devices directly from their mobile carrier, often paying for them as a one-time, upfront cost. Larger enterprises might negotiate with the carriers for “tech funds,” which are basically credits toward hardware purchases made through the carrier. On the surface, tech funds are designed to discount or offset hardware costs, but often in practice, any savings is reduced or eliminated by higher airtime rates.
Lately, European companies are breaking the link between the airtime provider and the hardware purchase by working with third-party suppliers specializing in hardware logistics. The advantages include the ability to:
- Negotiate better airtime and hardware rates separately.
- Work with regional hardware suppliers that can serve as a single source for devices across EU borders. As a bonus, their buying power can give you access to a wider range of hardware manufacturers than offered by a carrier.
- Explore using refurbished devices.
While European buyers are beginning to embrace third-party hardware vendors, there’s still little traction for the bring your own device (BYOD) model. European companies continue to shy away from BYOD because of security concerns, difficulty enforcing policy, the complexity of supporting disparate devices, and the risk that older devices won’t support the latest software updates. Additionally, corporate-provided devices are seen as an employee perk and staff-retention strategy. In some European countries with strong employment rights, providing employees with corporate phones as a way of delineating employees’ professional and personal lives.3-
3 - European and multinational companies are consolidating vendors.
Large multinational companies lean toward consolidating carriers in global and European markets to simplify their vendor management and gain economies of scale. Many companies are negotiating cross-border, or cross-country, deals with the big network alliances, most notably Vodafone Global Enterprise, FreeMove and Telefónica.
When evaluating vendor consolidation, consider the following:
4 - 5G continues its slow rollout across Europe.
- Coverage – Do the carriers within the alliance offer sufficient coverage for your employee locations? Where are the coverage gaps that could cause issues for business continuity? What is the balance of 5G vs. 4G coverage? Will 4G suffice for your usage profiles in the areas that is the only option? Or do you need 5G coverage?
- Vendor Management Complexity – Contracting a single global or regional vendor for all your mobility needs is appealing. However, many carrier alliances are simply loose affiliations of individual carriers. This makes it difficult for the global or regional vendor to manage the local subsidiaries, which impacts the client and user experience. Be sure to ask how management is consolidated?
- Reporting and Visibility – Does the global vendor provide visibility across the multiple carriers through consolidated reporting, or are reports delivered through individual carriers at a country level?
- Ordering Process – Does the global vendor provide a single simplified ordering process, or is ordering managed at a local carrier level?
- Plans and Features – Do the plans and features available from the global vendor meet your unique needs based on your business requirements, user behavior and the country in which the users operate? You may find it to be more cost-effective to have individual plans tailored to each market rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
- IT Support – If your IT team previously managed local, in-country carriers, is the team equipped to move to a regional or global management model?
5G has been growing slowly in Europe and is now available in most countries. However, depending on your carrier, 5G may be limited to a select number of locations. 5G typically is deployed in major urban areas to meet the demands of a dense user base rather than cross-country coverage.
Today, 5G covers 66 percent of the overall EU population based on population density, not geographic coverage). Italy, The Netherlands and Denmark have the highest 5G coverage in Europe, with more than 95 percent population coverage. Belgium, Slovakia and Hungary have the lowest coverage, with less than 20 percent population coverage. The EU continues to prioritize 5G coverage through its 5G Action plan with the aim that all populated areas have 5G coverage by 2030.
5 - Brexit continues to impact roaming legislation and charges.
Following its departure from the EU in 2020, the United Kingdom is no longer covered by the EU’s roaming legislation allowing for charge-free usage of mobile plans across international borders within the EU’s 27 countries. This legislation is known as, “roam like at home,” because when moving between EU countries, users continue to use their usage allowance as if they’re at home.
Initially following the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU, most major U.K. network operators announced that they would continue to follow the “roam like at home” legislation and not introduce roaming charges within Europe. However, carriers have since gradually added more EU roaming charges, typically following a daily or monthly fixed-charge model, and then allowing users to leverage their home allowances.
As you navigate these changes, you must check your carrier contracts to determine which countries are included in which roaming zones, along with the associated charges. For EU carriers with users traveling to the United Kingdom, companies should re-check their carrier contracts for U.K.-specific roaming fees.
It’s also worth noting that while roaming may be inclusive under the “roam like at home” rules, fair usage policies still protect the carriers against abuse, such as a user permanently roaming in another country. Carriers can enforce usage limits, throttle data and, in some circumstances, ask users to pay a roaming surcharge.
Need a partner to manage your corporate mobility needs in Europe? Get started by talking with a vMOX expert today.