Traq-wireless: Slashing Cell Phone Bills at Kleinfelder

Traq-wireless Inc.

Category: Mobile/wireless

Location: Austin

Technology: Mobile Communications Management software

How it works: Traq-wireless' software reduces the cost and complexity for companies conducting business with mobile devices and wireless services, including cellular phones, handhelds, laptops, pagers, remote-access services and other untethered devices.

Customer sampling: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Cadbury Schweppes PLC, FedEx Freight, Nova Chemicals Corp.

Tip: Any enterprise with a large number of cellular users—1,000 or more—and signed up for service from multiple carriers should consider using a service like Traq's, says Peter Firstbrook, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Boston. Companies that use only one carrier probably don't need it, he adds.

What's in store: Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass., says demand for Traq's service could pick up in November, when users will be able to switch from one cellular carrier to another without changing phone numbers, thanks to a mandate from the Federal Communications Commission allowing number portability.

Firstbrook says Traq is the leader in this new and still-narrow field, but competition is growing. San Diego-based ProfitLine Inc., which audits local and long-distance phone bills, has added cellular auditing to its portfolio, Firstbrook says, while Digital Reliance Inc. in Denver and Avotus Corp. in Oakville, Ontario, audit and manage cellular bills.

User Profile

Two years ago, Ernie Liu, finance director at The Kleinfelder Group Inc., had a simple approach to the 3-foot stack of paper that represented the San Diego-based construction company's monthly cell phone bills. He just paid them, without much analysis.

Today, Liu says, he can easily review and optimize cell phone plans for close to 2,000 employees, thanks to Traq-wireless, which has developed online tools that help companies manage airtime for cell phones and mobile devices.

Cell phone carriers such as AT&T Wireless Services Inc. in Redmond, Wash., and Nextel Communications Inc. in Reston, Va.—both of which Kleinfelder uses—sell cellular airtime in buckets of minutes. Buy too few minutes for an employee, and you get stuck with hefty "overage" charges. Buy too many minutes for another employee, and the carrier makes out well from the "underage."

Liu uses the Traq analytical tools to monitor monthly cellular and pager usage per employee, which in turn allows him to spot at a glance overage or underage for individual users. Liu says Traq has helped Kleinfelder cut its average per-minute cell phone charge from 28 to 13 cents.

Another user, Romolo Pallini, director of networks and telecommunications at Getronics NV, an Amsterdam-based computer and IT services company, says the Traq service has allowed him to drive down airtime costs for 3,000 devices used in the U.S.—2,000 phones and 1,000 pagers—in some cases to less than a dime per minute, with an annual savings of $300,000.

Pallini says Traq also allows him to better manage costs by buying buckets of off-network and expensive roaming minutes and pooling airtime minutes among users.

Pallini adds that he has never encountered such a powerful telecommunications management tool and that he wishes Traq could devise a way to use it to monitor Getronics' entire global telecommunications infrastructure.

Jim Offerdahl, Traq's president, says the technology is based on sophisticated patented and patent-pending algorithms. Such algorithms help companies get more from their cell phone plans by comparing geography and job requirements (including travel, which dictates a national vs. regional plan) against a database of 14,000 rate plans.

The code is primarily written in Java, with data stored in Oracle databases. Traq operates as an application service provider, with hosting provided by IBM.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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