So here we are, the moment of truth. You know how many users you have and you know what their usage patterns are. Now it’s time to go out there and shop around for the best plan(s) to fit your wireless usage. The problem is each wireless provider has their own unique (or at least somewhat unique) plans to accommodate business usage. Which one is best? There really is no “best”. There are just better and smarter fits for your particular needs. Again, to keep things simple, I will assume you are already consolidated and sharing across users. I will address this specific point in a subsequent post.

There first thing to know is there are two different types of shared plan approaches. I will loosely call them pools and buckets. A pooled plan means every user must contribute some minutes for all to share. Think of it as a March Madness office pool where everyone who participates chips in $10 to wager. Then there are buckets, which is just one lump of minutes that people don’t contribute to, they just take away from. It’s like a bucket of crab legs at a seafood shack; the server brings them to you, you put them to good use.

Out of the major players (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Alltel), Verizon and Alltel use the pool method. Every user has to have some kind of a peak minute contribution, whether it be 450 minutes or 4,000 minutes.

AT&T and T-Mobile use the bucket approach. They have business enterprise plans where a large chunk of minutes is purchased for all to use. There may be a small line charge per phone using that pool. AT&T has a limit on the number of lines each bucket can have and charges a line fee for each line. T-Mobile has no line limit per bucket and each bucket comes with an included number of lines at no monthly fee. A line charge will be assessed after going over the set number of lines. In this approach, no one technically has allocated minutes the way Verizon or Alltel does.

Sprint has a hybrid of the two. A single user can purchase up to 4,000 minutes to add to a pool, much like Verizon or Alltel. But Sprint also has what’s called “Add-On” users. These users don’t contribute to the pool of minutes but they can take away from the minutes, much like AT&T and T-Mobile.

Those are the basics. In most instances, if you are reconfiguring plans, you will be sticking with the incumbent provider. That pretty much narrows down where to look. If you’re looking to migrate service to another provider, then there’s much more work to do. Either way, you have to do your homework.

Knowing the different plans can also steer what you look at in your analysis. Some plans may have unlimited within network calling but no free nights and weekend. You’ll want to look at those elements of usage along with peak usage to get the best plan. If you have a lot of weekend usage, you’ll have to figure that in to your minute needs.

Look for the details and special offers too. For a short period of time, Verizon offered what they called “Option 1” and “Option 2” plans. Option 1 plans had the standard number of minutes (450, 900, 1350, etc) and had unlimited nights and weekends. With Option 2, for the same price, you would get more minutes (550, 1100, 1650, etc) but no unlimited nights and weekends. If you have no or limited night and weekend usage, Option 2 would be more cost effective. This is a good example where due diligence can reap rewards.

The moral of the story is once you have a handle on your usage, and I mean really have a handle on your usage, start scouring the web and making phone calls to wireless reps and know their offerings inside out. Devise different scenarios to see which plan of attack provides adequate coverage at the best price. Sorry I couldn’t give a magic bullet, but I never said this would be easy.
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Jazzy Sourcer

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