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Wireless Week: Looking at Key Trends in Mobility Management in 2018

The coming year will bring many opportunities and challenges in the field of enterprise mobility management (EMM), starting with the potentially drastic changes that the elimination of “net neutrality” would portend in the United States.

The Federal Communications Commission’s 3-2 vote to eliminate the longstanding net neutrality policy in the U.S. would open the door for internet service providers and mobile carriers to alter their rate plans in ways that enterprises will need to scrutinize closely. The policy switch will likely encounter political opposition in Congress (which oversees the FCC) as well in the courts (lawsuits are a given), so don’t expect to see immediate rate changes. But enterprises need to be prepared for the eventuality that net neutrality will either be abandoned or modified.

A recommended way to start would be to review all existing contracts and rate plans with mobile and internet service providers. Use them as a baseline to consider what types of services could be reduced or eliminated in the event of a major rate increase. Make sure you have a correct baseline and understanding of your usage patterns will likely be critical. The end of net neutrality opens the door for more “toll free” pricing and if your organization is consuming lots of data – perhaps from specific applications – different plans or providers might be an option that needs to be examined.

Other issues to monitor in 2018

In 2017, we saw:

Increasing changes to enterprise data plans along with pressure to reduce or eliminate international roaming charges by cellular carriers (particularly in Europe). While unlimited data plans are the norm for consumers, the enterprise side is still quite complicated. Most companies that buy unlimited plans are paying more than those who pool their data. The fact is most corporate users don’t even consume that much data on corporate devices, especially for companies using EMM. Thus, carriers may begin promoting unlimited enterprise data plans knowing that many companies will end up overbuying. Additionally, the overage fees on limited plans are miniscule. While unlimited might seem tempting on the enterprise side, it might not make the most business sense.

More sophisticated cyber threats, even against WiFi networks, coupled with a re-thinking of BYOD (bring your own device) mobile policies. Because of increasing cyber security concerns with mobile devices, apps and operating systems, we expect to see more organizations rethinking BYOD in 2018. BYOD is already evolving into “BYOX” (bring your own anything) practice in some enterprises. But unsanctioned devices, unvetted apps, new and untested IoT (Internet of Things) add-ons bring new risks to IT managers who already feel even vulnerable to cyber threats. The more employees access the enterprise through mobile, the more instances of malware and security threats there will be.

Device management: Apple still king in the U.S.

Prices for mobile phones continue to rise. In the U.S., early adopters will continue to pay a premium for the “must-have” phones and tablets from Apple, which is still in a good position to maintain its pricing power. In the rest of the world, the trend is toward lower prices for mobile hardware. There are very few companies in Asia-Pacific and India that offer mobile devices to their employees – but those employees are still expected to use their personal devices on the job. The cost of a new iPhone is about the same as the monthly salary of a typical worker in Asia-Pacific. Therefore, worldwide users are going to look at less expensive vendors including Huawei (no. 1 in China), Xiaomi (no. 1 in India), and Oppa (biggest growth).

You can also expect a continued rise in sales of pre-owned or factory refurbished devices because new releases are to be less than game-changing.

M&A activity in mobile telecom

Expect to see a major mobile carrier partnering with a major cloud services provider such as Amazon or Microsoft in 2018. Keep an eye on Sprint as it has the most spectrum to enable a 5G network. For this reason, the industry could see a partnership with a cable company, like Comcast.

One more thing: at the end of each year, many OEMs, carriers and service providers looking to lock in contracts will predict ground-breaking developments on the device, expense and services side in coming year. Take that with a grain of salt.

Matthew Arnow is the Director of Mobile Solutions at Tangoe Inc.

Article appeared on Wireless Week here.