COVID-19 has impacted business in many ways that we could not have imagined, and with respect to mobile, new and interesting changes have emerged in corporate mobile usage and data consumption habits.
Prior to COVID-19, when analysing user data, typically just 1% of users were generating 10-15% of corporate data usage. In the wake of COVID-19, however, data analysis shows a big change in user behaviour. Post-COVID-19, the top 1% of users now account for 20-30% of overall corporate data usage, representing a significant uptick. Meanwhile, the top 5% of users are now accountable for 50% or more of all data usage within an organisation. At the same time, this rise in high volume users does not necessarily dictate the overall data usage of the majority of individuals during COVID-19. Instead, the bulk of employees are actually using far less data than previously, with 80% of employees now using less data overall than before COVID-19.
Despite the vast proportion of users now using less data than they were a year ago due to home working, Mobliciti has seen a general increase in overall data consumption for organisations, driven by the behaviour of the top data users.
Current Usage Trends & The Impact Of COVID-19
Why are some users consuming such large amounts of data? Each case is different and can involve many contributing factors, but common themes do emerge. The rise of video conferencing technology in 2020 had a major impact, with video consuming far more data than a low-capacity voice calls. Some users are now also using their corporate mobile devices as hotspots, tethering their TV’s, game consoles, smart devices and more to it. Streaming is a huge contributor to data use – one hour of streaming Netflix on a 4K TV tethered to a work phone consumes 7GB of data.
Many users who were not anticipating working from home have found their home broadband insufficient and are now relying heavily on their smartphones. Mobliciti provides homeConnect services to a number of users who rely on cellular connectivity – and as a guideline, they’re regularly consuming 100-200GB per month for business use alone.
Coupled with the introduction of 5G, these changing usage profiles and going to have a significant impact on how businesses manage and purchase mobile services over the coming years.
Average Data Usage Is Increasing Globally
Globally, data usage varies wildly. At just below 5GB of data per month for each individual, the UK has comparatively low usage. Finland by contrast, as the world leader in mobile data usage, consumes almost 35GB per month per person. Driven by technology, it’s not hard to see how Finland, with a mobile-focused society, uses such a large amount of data. If UK data usage reached the heights of Finland (a seven-fold increase), could many corporate contracts cope with the increased requirements and subsequent spend implications?
From data analysed by Mobliciti, the top 1% of users generate an average of just over 20GB of data per month. A single 20GB user may not seem like much of a problem, however the compound effect when larger numbers of users begin to consume similar amounts of data can quickly create significant increases in cost, which can be difficult to remove without a change of contract.
When analysing client user data, common trends emerge:
1. Large volumes of extremely low data users
Often extremely low data volumes, where as little as 2-3% of data usage, is accounted for by a third of the total users. When breaking down data usage, a substantial number of users are using just pennies worth of data per month, however maybe incurring much higher charges. Businesses should be questioning whether their investment in mobile devices and connectivity is delivering any real value, as it is likely that these users are primarily using their own device or simply have little need for a business phone.
2. Increasing numbers of extremely high data users
Towards the top-end of data users, Mobliciti is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of users consuming an extremely large amount of data. A small quantity of approximately 5% of users are commonly accountable for upwards of 45% of all corporate data usage.
Once you begin to break down data usage and costs into different usage profiles, it becomes clear that shared data pools for all users can become an extremely inefficient and expensive way to purchase services, once users begin consuming tens or hundreds of GB per month. With a small number of users using a disproportionate amount of data, organisations can easily be taken outside of their contracted data allowance, leading to high-cost out-of-bundle data charges.
Extracting high data usage individuals from the shared corporate data pool and retaining them on a separate plan, for example, an “unlimited” data usage plan reduces costs and limits the potential of bill shock. In the future, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that many businesses currently take with their mobile data contracts, it’s more likely that we’ll see a blend of different services and networks used within organisations.
Increasing Data Consumption With 5G
Since 2019, 5G has been rolled out across the globe and is now available in hundreds of cities. As with the launch of previous generations of mobile networks, as download speeds increase, data consumption also rises. Over the last five years, businesses have become accustomed to a 4G environment. Although data consumption has increased, it has done so fairly steadily. 4G usage within the enterprise is also relatively predictable; although there are exceptions, it is fairly simple to manage. 5G changes a lot of these accepted principles and we expect to see large increases over the next few years.
Currently, in the UK, there is typically a five-fold increase in data speeds on 5G compared to 4G; however speeds across countries vary significantly, with Thailand reaching speeds 14.7 times faster than 4G. The UK currently lags behind when it comes to the rollout of 5G, with just 4.7% of UK users having access to 5G. Once 5G becomes more widespread across the UK, businesses should expect to see the beginning of exponential growth in mobile data.
Few businesses will look to immediately upgrade their corporate mobile devices to 5G-enabled models, but this future is not far off – by 2022 or 2023, 5G will inevitably be introduced to the enterprise on a mass-scale, and today we are already seeing 5G handsets from Samsung in the £250 region, with Apple likely to follow with the next generation of SE phones in 2022/3.
When on 5G, the amount of mobile data being consumed is typically 2 – 3 times higher compared to 4G in the UK. When analysing Mobliciti’s client corporate data usage, we see average in the range of 1GB to 2GB per month depending on sector (for active mobile connections in 2020). Mobliciti expects to see the amount of corporate data consumed to steadily increase over the next two years, increasing to 4-5GB per user per month. By 2025/6, we anticipate 15-20GB per user on average.
Although a rise from 2GB to 20GB for a single user over five years may seem inconsequential, when this increase is applied company-wide, businesses must make serious changes to their mobile contracts or face steep charges.
Negotiating Flexible Mobile Contracts
In short, future contracts need to be able to adapt to changing usage profiles:
- High volume users materially impact profiles and, when unmanaged, can create large excess data charges – Companies that had very rigid data plans in place who bought fixed amounts of data were badly stung during COVID-19. The impact of a small number of users that were consuming 100-200GB worth of data each was pushing businesses over their agreed allowances. As a result, they were incurring excess data costs (e.g. £10 per GB) that can amount to thousands of pounds per month. With no mechanism within their contract to be able to increase or decrease their data allowances at a sensible price point, excess spend continued to flood in.
- “One-size-fits-all” or shared plans are not effective for users with very high data usage –The current one-size-fits-all mobile contract approach that many businesses operate under relies on the expectation that some users will use more data than the average, whilst others use less. Although going forward, this approach may continue to work for the core users, it is essential to have capabilities that cater to heavy data users. Providing these heavy data users with cheaper unlimited plans prevents them from consuming extremely expensive shared data.
- Large volumes of very low data usage are emerging as the majority of users are connected to home broadband – With employees working from home, the vast majority will use their home broadband. Ensuring businesses have a flexible contract is a must, as it will enable the increase or decrease of data, which is important in changing times. Mobliciti detected many inactive corporate phones in 2020. At the same, there were sharp increases in data usage from some users, highlighting the significance of understanding who is using corporate phones.
- Roaming usage has naturally fallen dramatically, but can quickly spike when lockdown restrictions are removed – After lockdown restrictions were lifted for the majority of the UK in the summer, there was a spike in usage in August and September, however, this quickly decreased later on in the year. Many businesses negotiated their contract deals in very different times, and are now sitting on contracts that may include large amounts of international roaming data that they bought for a fixed-term and attached to their contract. As roaming usage dropped to nothing, these companies are still obliged to pay thousands per month for plans that they no longer use.
- Network coverage in user’s homes is more important than previously – There is no single network that works for all. Businesses must ensure access to a range of networks that can cater to the many locations their employees live in.
- UK Voice calls and calls to International destinations have increased as users switched from telephony platforms – As employees left the corporate office, telephony systems were largely switched off as users turned to mobile. Internationally direct-dialled calls on mobile have tripled since COVID-19 and businesses are being impacted by these unexpected costs.
- Understand your detailed usage profiles and ‘use cases’ before engaging in negotiations – If you don’t understand these profiles, you’ll buy a one-size-fits-all profile, leading to overspending over the term of your new agreement.
- SIM-only flexible contracts are becoming essential to avoid inappropriate spend lock-in’s and commitments – Locking an organisation into a spend commitment to gain access to a large tech fund means locking into a rigid contract with fixed allowances and those contracts are never designed to increase or decrease data easily.
- Negotiate the ability to increase or decrease shared allowances at a relatively short notice.
- Implement in-month alerting and potential barring options to prevent bill shock – The ability to see data use every day and deal with the issues relating to that before they become big cost problems is essential.
- Daily roaming plans will be much more effective with current changing roaming requirements – Large fixed data roaming plans will no longer work going forward, at least for the next 2-3 years Day plans will become more common going forward, with businesses only paying when users go roaming without incurring any costs when they’re home.
- Understand voice usage & costs – IDD calls are often 5-10 times more costly on mobile compared to the landline.
- Consider negotiating a “tool kit” of tariffs and services to align with different use cases – For example “unlimited data plans” – one tariff for everyone is not the solution
Virtual Mobile Manager (VMM) brings together Mobliciti’s independent mobile management services under one service, acting in your interests as a direct extension of your own team. Ensuring mobile services, costs, and usage are optimised and proactively managed on an ongoing basis; helping to negotiate the right mobile contract and releasing your own IT team from mobile network and device administration.
COVID-19 and the subsequent UK lockdowns have totally altered the way that employees work. With VMM your business can continue to deliver world-class support to your users, even when your IT team need to work from home. Get in touch to find out more.