By now, you’ve heard me mention the word “consolidated” or “shared minutes” many times. This simply means all of your users (or a big chunk of your users) are all on one bill and one account and are able to share minutes with each other. I say “able to share”, not “are sharing”, because even though all users may be on one account, they may not all have shared plans.

Consolidating on to one provider, or as few providers as possible, presents a huge savings opportunity. It costs less to have peak minute coverage when shared as a group than on an individual basis. You end up purchasing less minutes because people who have high usage can use the minutes of people who have low usage. A person who uses 2,000 minutes a month can have a 450 minute plan and not go into overage because he’s taking minutes from others on 450 minutes plans who only use 100 minutes a month.

Let’s start with the basics of consolidation. You typically have to have at least five users to be eligible for business share plans. If you have less than five, an alternative would be to go on a family share plan. Just because you’re a business doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a family share plan; it’s all about the number of lines, not the nature of the entity.

Assuming everyone is on the same carrier but not on the same account, the next thing you need is to get the phone numbers and account numbers of all people you want to consolidate. Forward that list to your account rep for that provider and they should be able to help with the consolidation. Different carriers have different approaches to this. Some are easier than others.

What starts to get tricky is if you have individual liability phones (phones owned privately by the employee) that will be transferred to the corporate account and become corporate liability phones. Waivers have to be signed by the employee and submitted to the wireless provider, a bill may have to be given to the provider, the employee may have to call customer service and verbally authorize the corporation to take the line over. It can get obtrusive, believe me.

If you are migrating users from one provider to another, be wary of early termination fees, or ETFs. If your fleet of phones is scattered across the country and is a hodge-podge of users and carriers, it’s financially advisable to move people from small-time providers like Helio and US Cellular to larger providers like Sprint and Verizon. If you plan on doing this, make sure you know what the contract expiration date is of those users being migrated to another carrier. ETFs can range from $150 to $200, even if the user is just shy of fulfilling their term commitment. If there’s only a handful of months left on their contract, wait until it expires before moving. If a new contract was signed, it’s usually advisable to eat the ETF and move the user. If the user has 18 months left on a two-year contract and the ETF is $200, you’ll more than make up for the $11.11 per month the ETF breaks out to be.

When consolidating users, be ready with a new profile of plans. With some providers, you have to have new plans ready to go. With AT&T for example, if you consolidate individual users to a business enterprise plan, their individual plans don’t carry over. You have to know how many minutes you’ll need so you can buy that large chunk of minutes as soon as everything is consolidated. This isn’t as pressing an issue with Verizon or Sprint. Individual users will carry their plans with them and will start to share those minutes as soon as everything is consolidated and as soon as they have a share plan. With Verizon and Sprint, the difference between a share plan and an individual plan is $5. Verizon, as an example, has a 450 minute individual plan for $39.99; to be able to share those 450 minutes, it’s an extra $5 fee. You don’t have to change anything else but you have to specifically request this. Just because you’re asking to consolidate lines doesn’t mean your provider will automatically change the individual plans to share plans.

Consolidating multiple accounts to one may or may not require signing a new contract with that provider. That’s a perfect seg-way for my next post; what to include when entering into a new wireless contract.
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Jazzy Sourcer

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