The battle for wireless customers in Canada has been sizzling hot this summer with new entrants such Wind Mobile enticing cell phone users with anything from hot deals to hotdogs. Meanwhile, incumbent Rogers Communication has amped the discussion decibels with it own bargain basement brand Chatr, causing startup Mobilitcity to threaten legal action.
If consumers are confused over which mobile service provider to go with you can bet not a few small and medium sized businesses eager to cut expenses are in the same quandary.
There are numerous free to low cost services that offer to help consumers and businesses compare wireless plans and prices.
One firm I checked out, MyCELLmyTERMS.com recently launched an SMB-specific service that takes a novel approach to the problem of getting the best cell phone plan for its clients.
Rather than simply help clients find an existing plan that will suit their needs, MyCELL helps cell phone users negotiate the best price, packages, phones and perks with the independent dealers for the mobile service companies.
“Essentially we help our clients come with their wish list of terms they would like on a cell plan,” says Kye Husbands, co-founder and chief information officer for MyCELL.
This wish list is then presented to dealers who bid for the cell phone user’s businesses by matching the wish list as best they can.
MyCELL has been providing this service to consumers for a year now ever since they won funding at the CBC business start-up program Dragons Den. The company began offering the service to SMBs this April and already claims to have saved Canadian businesses about $2 million on cell phone costs.
MyCELL claims it can save some clients can save more than $15,000 on a three-year-contract for five cell phones.
“We plan to save SMBs more than $20 million off their cell phone bills in 2010, so we have our work cut out for us,” says Husbands.
He said MyCELL first wanted to be “the voice of cell phone users” when it set up shop but later on found out that SMBs were also a poorly represented bunch in the country.
“Many mobile providers treated small businesses as consumers and do not provide them with the appropriate plans,” according to Husbands. “On the other hand a lot of businesses don’t know how to pick the best plans for their operations and miss out on a lot of savings.”
The MyCELL executive points out that it’s not uncommon for SMBs to pay extra for their existing plans because “they’ve simply signed up for the wrong plan.”
Very often, the focus of many businesses is to simply obtain a low fixed cost on a plan so that they can set their budgets. But there are deals to be found for those who bother to look for them.
Trucking companies for example might sign up for the lowest unlimited talk and text plan but end up getting dinged on exorbitant roaming charges which quickly rack up since drivers frequently drive across the country and in and out of the United Sates.
MyCELL also cites the example of a Blue Link Associates Ltd., an accounting software firm in Toronto that was able to save $75,000 (as compared to their previous contract) on a three year wireless contract arranged by MyCELL.
“Blue Link’s previous plan did not provide enough shared minutes for their agents. We were able to negotiate better rates for them,” says Husbands.
MyCELL offers two modes of services:
1) A do-it-yourself package where clients can pick and chose templates for their cell plan wish list
2) A managed service clients can more hands on assistance from MyCELL in crafting a comprehensive wireless plan.
For the moment both services are being offered for free. MyCELL earns money by getting a percentage (10 per cent) from the costs savings the client gets by using MyCELL’s services. MyCELL negotiates with dealers for incumbents Bell, Rogers and Telus and well as newcommer Mobilicity.
There are some caveats of course. For instance, clients on the lowest priced plans are already on bare-bones packages that offer very little wiggle room. For the moment, consumers and businesses on iPhones pretty much have to take what service providers have to offer because these are items that are in hot demand and it’s a seller’s market.
Smartphone plans for BlackBerry and Android phones, on the other hand, hold the most promise for SMBs looking for better deals.
MyCELL’s top three tips for the SMB:
Dump your consumer plans- If you’re a business owner operating on a consumer plan you’re losing out. Typically consumers pay higher rates. Business plans often include more anytime minutes as well as better rates for overage minutes and long distance.
Put your biz on a share plan –A business share plan is helpful for companies of any size. This type of plan provides users with a bundle of pooled anytime minutes or data. This prevents businesses from paying excessive rates for unused minutes while making sure users are not in the position where they might run out of minutes while talking to a customer.
Beware of roaming charges – Don’t get burned by steep roaming charges. International data rates of $50/MB and voice rates of $3/min are not uncommon. In some cases you could incur roaming charges by simply keeping your phone on during your travel. A travel saver package will provide you with lower rate per minute for voice and data.
A bundle of 50 voice minutes could cost $125. Getting a data pack so that you could check email or surf could cost an additional $1/MB in North American or $15/MB in other countries.
If you’d like to try out MyCELLmyTERMS, you can start creating your business cell phone plan here.
Nestor Arellano is a senior writer for ITBusiness.ca. Follow Nestor on Twitter, read more of his blogs on ITBusiness.caBlogs and check out ITBusiness.ca’s Facebook page.