Unlimited Data Plans vs. Shared Data Groups: What Companies Need to Know

Jun 9, 2022

Choosing a cellular data plan for individual use may be straightforward, but choices get a lot more complicated for businesses. When companies select a data plan for employees’ mobile phones, they first need to identify their needs and priorities. For some companies, predictable billing is most important. For others, consistent speed is imperative. 

Bear in mind that those priorities may vary by staff roles. Employees who spend much of their time in places where cellular coverage is limited may use their phones as mobile hotspots, which will affect data usage. Entry-level employees — or those who work primarily at home or in offices — may have different needs than executives or employees who travel frequently. 

All these factors can determine which data plan is best for a company and whether it makes sense to partner with a managed mobility services provider who can manage plans and handle ongoing maintenance. 

Unlimited Data Plans: Predictable Costs, With a Possibility of Slower Speeds

Data plans come primarily in two flavors: unlimited and shared data groups. “Unlimited,” however, comes with a lot of fine print. It actually means that after users hit a certain data threshold, the carrier will throttle data transmission speed. So, employees can use as much data as they want, and the company won’t have to pay extra when they go over, but speeds may be slower (almost to the point of being unusable) until the monthly allotment resets. 

What’s most important for companies is understanding what the “unlimited” data plan is offering — and at what point will the carrier start slowing down the speed? Realize, too, that most carriers reserve the option to throttle or deprioritize at any time. Companies that manage their accounts themselves often get an unpleasant surprise if they expect genuinely unlimited data, and a month later, they’re scrambling to figure out how to reset the data to keep workers connected. 

Shared Data Groups: Mix and Match for the Optimal User Combination

The second option is a shared data group: a pooled amount of data that several employees can share. Once the group hits the data limit, the carrier can add more data, but the company will pay for that extra data amount. 

Here, too, LINQ can help customers manage those plans. Our analysts monitor customers’ shared group accounts daily and add data as needed. Companies that choose this type of plan are less concerned about overage charges because their priority is ensuring employees’ connectivity is consistently fast and always available.

Shared groups may also require more management to ensure the company maintains the best mix of employees. For instance, if one group is sharing a pool of 25 gigabytes, and one line consumes 20 of those, the company would want to combine that line with several others that don’t use very much. For companies, it can be difficult to monitor those lines continually, identify top users and move lines around as they may also change month to month. Often, it’s more cost-effective to have a mobile analyst expert handle those tasks. 

Mobile Hotspots May Be Subject to More Throttling

Using a mobile phone as a hotspot to provide connectivity in areas lacking coverage is sometimes a necessary reality to keep employees on task. Generally, data plans track hotspot data separately from mobile data, and it’s important to keep in mind that if multiple users are connecting to a hotspot then that data is going to get used up much quicker than if one person is connecting. For example, consider that 1GB of data will allow a user to browse the internet for about 12 hours or watch 2 hours of standard-definition video. However, if a user is loading pictures or videos, the data will go even faster — and this is especially true if there are multiple users. 

Companies do have the option to put mobile hotspots on their own plans, however they’re handled just like any other plan: If the plan has unlimited data, the speed will slow to an unusable pace after the user hits the data limit, and if the plan has an allotment, the company will pay extra for going over. Always remember that unlimited is not unlimited in the literal sense of the word — there are nuances in the plan that must be managed accordingly. 

In fact, carriers are more likely to throttle when someone uses a phone as a hotspot, just as they often throttle streaming data — even before users hit their data limits. That’s important to know, especially if a company intends for its employees to use their mobile devices to watch videos, such as training materials.

It’s also crucial to note that companies whose employees use mobile hotspots frequently would be better off using a dedicated hotspot device instead of their mobile phones. Among other advantages, such devices typically come with separate data plans that are likely to have a higher data allowance.

Final thoughts 

Choosing the right data plan for your company is essential because it ultimately affects employees’ productivity, overall costs, and the required level of data usage and plan monitoring. 

Many companies recognize the increasing complexity of the cellular landscape and determine that they’re better off, in the long run, partnering with a managed mobility services provider that can guide them through the best plans, negotiate the best rates and handle the ongoing adjustments that keep employees connected at high speed.

Never call your carrier again.

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