As wired costs drop, concerns rise over wireless voice and data charges

One company wondered how to deal with a $7,000 cellular bill

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In another example, Chiquita Brands International has been grappling with ways to ensure seamless and cost-effective wireless tracking of containers of bananas as they are shipped internationally, said Manjit Singh, Chiquita's CIO.

Sometimes five cellular carriers will be required to track a shipment, and tracking with SMS messages can hit $50 per container per trip, Singh said. Chiquita sends 10 million boxes worldwide in one month, so that means the wireless tracking costs aren't always worth it. "At $50 per container, all of a sudden the return on investment isn't there," he said.

Tabulating and reducing wireless costs is a complex problem, but some solutions were suggested at the conference.

One system from TeleManagement Technologies Inc. in Walnut Creek, Calif., tracks wireless and wired costs across hundreds or thousands of users in an entire business.

TeleManagement's WinBill product can be used to track when a user's bill rises above a certain percentage over the prior month, for example, to help a manager control costs, said Charles Coakley, vice president of sales at TTI.

The product can also be used to help companies keep track of whether a company has a wireless or wired phone number in use for each one being billed, Coakley said. In some cases, a worker might leave a company and even turn in a cell phone that was being used, but the company will have failed to make sure the carrier turned off the service to that number, resulting in a charge.

Ronald Gruia, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said most businesses do not have well-developed programs for containing wireless costs. He estimated, based on surveys conducted by Frost, that more than 75% of large companies have no comprehensive wireless management policy. About half of companies even allow end users to pick their own service provider, which means the company is not finding cost-effective plans with providers it has selected.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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