Managing Mobile Data Usage in A 5G World

5G is very much the tech buzzword of the moment. The very latest research and technology are combining to create mobile networks which are faster, more intelligent and importantly more flexible; enabling the next wave of connected devices and vehicles – “the Internet of Things”.

Many countries are expecting to launch their 5G networks towards the tail-end of this year, with the aim of enrolling the early stage adopters in 2019. In practice, however, we are unlikely to see any large-scale adoption until 2020/21, especially as most devices won’t be 5G-enabled until that point.

Whilst the launch of 5G promises a faster and better-connected future, that improved connectivity is likely to generate its own challenges for corporate IT teams.

The Mobile Management Challenge

Undoubtedly the introduction of each new generation mobile network has enabled great advancements in the mobile world, but each has offered up their own series of challenges:

  • 1G – With the first-generation mobile voice services in the 80’s and early 90’s, finding a signal was often the biggest challenge, however only for those that could afford the phones and usage charges
  • 2G – Introduced us to the mass adoption of mobile phones and the explosion of SMS and of course the start of the corporate mobile budget, but the poor signal remained a problem
  • 3G – Launched a whole host of new possibilities for mobile users, however, it was stunted by high data costs, limited quality data network coverage and for corporations the start of mobile security issues, rapidly growing costs and device management
  • 4G – Speeds never quite matched those promised, however, 4G did enable the rapid uptake of the smartphone which has fundamentally changed the way we communicate in just ten years, bringing with it and a new branch of IT management and security challenges

With each previous generation of mobile networks, we have been lured with the promise of ever faster network download speeds. Often these early stage theoretical speeds set too high an expectation, and possibly this is already proving the case with 5G, where multi-gigabit downloads are being discussed. However, unlike previous generations when these speeds would actually make a genuine difference to the user experience, 5G is not only about speed, it is as much about coverage, intelligent networking and capacity of signal.

Whilst 5G will most probably prove to be materially slower in everyday use, 100Mbps speeds are likely to be a reality, and they will certainly far exceed that of 4G. For most users that means data speeds that are quicker than their home broadband and corporate networks and may well exceed the capabilities of their devices and actual needs. Beyond a certain point the speed of the network will offer no tangible benefit on the performance of a device or its applications, however, 5G speeds will create new and unexpected issues.

  • Data Speeds and mobile security – In a world of high-speed mobile networks and handheld devices, a simple click on an innocuous-looking phishing email or text is sufficient to download the entire memory of a mobile device in a few seconds. For IT teams the challenge may therefore ironically include how to manage and regulate applications when 5G speeds are capable of outwitting our human ability to deal with the device itself?
  • Mobile device costs – 5G networks are expensive to roll out and new devices will see the cost of the technology continue to increase. For corporate IT teams funding this next generation of services may require some innovative reshaping of It budgets
  • Mobile IT convergence – unlike 4G services, 5G offers the potential for corporate IT teams to genuinely integrate LAN, WAN and mobile environments to extend the corporate network to the mobile device. This transformation will require IT teams to completely reconsider how they architect their networks and manage their applications, security and services.

Exponentially Increasing Mobile Data Consumption

By 2021, it is estimated that 7GB of data will be used per person per month on the planet. However, considering that currently half of the planet’s population have no access to mobiles, the reality for those who actually do use mobile devices is expected to be higher. The consensus is that by 2022, average mobile data consumption will be around 20GB per month.

As a rough rule, corporate mobile data usage is normally about a third of consumer usage, meaning that by 2022, a corporate user will be using approximately 7GB of data a month. That’s a very significant increase on the 500MB to 1GB usage that we currently see on corporate mobile estates. However, with materially faster networks, ubiquitous social media, the rapidly growing use of streaming services and of course the migration to cloud services, it’s not so difficult to see how this increase will happen.

Tackling the impact of increasing data

Whilst the 2020’s may seem a way off still, in practice any mobile contract being signed today is likely to span much of the time that it will take for this data usage increase to occur. Which means that your procurement and IT teams need to be making provision for this data growth into your mobile contracts today and planning for how this data can be better managed in the future, or your business could be facing some significant cost increases over the coming years.

We recommend considering some or all the following recommendations:

  • Negotiating the right mobile contract – Approximately half of companies will have already locked in their 2019 (and potentially 2020) pricing and contracts. So, what happens if within this time their data usage goes up 5 or 6-fold? We recommend businesses don’t necessarily focus on the cheapest possible tariff today, but instead also consider commercial terms that offer high levels of flexibility and adaptability to manage future data increases or decreases if your business migrates to a BYOD environment. For those whose contracts do not offer flexibility, they face the very real potential of increased data usage seeing users getting caught out with bill shock (of which the company is liable to pay).
  • Implementing a mobile data usage policy – a fair data usage policy is a must and we would recommend implementing an ongoing programme to educating users and build awareness of mobile usage and associated costs – this helps to keep down costs and creates user accountability whilst also helping to reduce security risks.
  • Inventory management – many businesses don’t have an accurate inventory of their mobile devices and connections, and this is often made more challenging when businesses don’t have a robust process for onboarding new starters and recovering mobile devices form leavers. In a typical organisation, this means that it’s not uncommon to find over 10% of all corporate connections sitting inactive over a 3-month period, yet they are still costing the company money. These devices and connections are both expensive and also a major security risk; and all too often they can make their way, untraced, onto the black market and can even be sold off internationally, sometimes with a live SIM card – making them even more valuable. It’s therefore critical that your business starts to create an accurate mobile inventory if it doesn’t have one today.
  • Cost centre and departmental awareness – for companies with a large number of users, there is usually no singular person who controls all phones and knows all the users. It is therefore an important part of managing mobile costs and usage to provide departments and team managers with accurate data about their team’s costs and usage. Not only does this create a culture of awareness, but it also enables businesses to more rapidly identify and deal with wastage and mitigate future security risks.

Taking a Multi-tiered approach to Mobile Cost & Usage Management

In summary, we recommend that corporate IT teams take a multi-tiered approach to keep costs down and to manage device usage, security and inventory:

User Level

  • Give users visibility and accountability for their expenditure and usage
  • Develop well thought through Fair usage policies that work for your business
  • Provide ongoing education, giving people sensible guidelines and awareness of risks
  • Create and distribute mobile usage statements and automate data usage alerts

Company Level

  • Implement ongoing mobile cost management, ensuring you can see bills and trends for each month and rapidly identify exceptional usage, costs and wastage
  • Adopt Cost centre reporting and/or recharging to create greater visibility and accountability
  • Implement an effective Inventory management service to control assets and connections


  • Negotiate flexible mobile contracts that can adapt to future changes
  • Model the impact of rapidly growing data consumption and be clear about the cost impact on your IT budget
  • Insist on In-month usage alerts from your carriers to allow IT to tackle issues and costs more quickly (including when roaming)
  • Adopt barring and data management policies and lift those restrictions on an individual basis rather than enabling all types of usage by default

How Can Mobliciti Help?

Mobliciti specialises in helping our customers to proactively manage their mobile devices, network and security. Working with our customer’s IT teams to create a support service that’s tailored to best suits your company’s needs. We can offer a wide range of resources and tools that can help you to rapidly reduce costs, provide visibility and awareness of mobile usage to your users and to gain control of your mobile device inventory and security.

Contact us to arrange a no-obligation Mobile Review and Independent Healthcheck.

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