Mobile rate negotiations are never easy for big enterprises. There's the analysis of all the plans to see who is using what and who is being billed what. Then looking to see if there have been any billing issues or mistakes. Then, there's the research work to see how many mobile MACDs you average. Then there's the deep digging to see what plans are available on the market and, if you have the market intel, what others are paying for plans. Finally, you contact the carriers to correct any errors and negotiate new rates.

And that's if you have some sort of telecom management in place. If you're dealing with a half-hearted spread sheet and a stack of paper invoices, it's much more difficult and time intensive.

Throwing a wrench into all of that is FreedomPop, who is offering free (yes, legitimately) voice, data, and messaging service. Here's how it breaks down:

  • You have to buy the phone from them. It's a $99 HTC Evo Design 4G; a serviceable Android smart phone with a dual core processor, front and back cameras, and a 4G radio that operates on Sprint's WiMax band.
  • Free service includes:
    • 200 anytime minutes
    • 500MB of 3G/4G data
    • 500 texts
  • Add-ons include:
    • $.02/MB data overage
    • Extra data packs ranging from $10 for an extra 1GB to $40 for 5GB
    • Unlimited voice and messaging for $11
  • Users can earn extra free data by participating in partner programs, like free Netflix trials and the like.
You are all intelligent sourcing folks, so you likely see where they expect the money to come from: overages and partner programs. Where they charge $10 for an extra GB of data, a 500MB overage provides the same amount of money. Also, these partner programs proved to be decent revenue generators when they were used, en masse, as part of the "get a free iPod/Playstation 2" programs of the mid-2000s.

While the free allotment sounds small, and they're counting on you to go over, I'm a smart phone power user and could actually make this work, thanks to the near-ubiquity of free WiFi and my antisocial nature. Even still, unlimited voice & messaging and 2GB of data only runs $31, or about 1/3 of what Verizon charges.

So is free phone service a possibility for your organization? Take a look at your usage stats, your user's communications skills, and Sprint's WiMax maps. You may be in for a surprise.
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Nicholas Hamner

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