Catering to Corporates
By Carlo Longino, Fri Nov 12 19:30:00 GMT 2004

Operators are getting a little more creative -- or at least comprehensive -- in the services they're pitching to enterprise customers.

mmO2 formed the Starmap alliance last year to counter the pan-European footprint of Vodafone, as well as the Freemove group of T-Mobile, Telefonica, TIM and Orange, and it's taken one of its first real steps in leveraging its multinational status by saying it will sell its members' services to corporate clients on an international, alliance level, rather than on a country-by-country basis. This means that companies with operations, in, say, Spain, the Czech Republic and Germany, could negotiate a single deal covering their employees in those three countries, rather than a separate contract with a carrier in each one.

Starmap's had voicemail, GPRS and MMS roaming set up for some time now, simplifying traveling for these customers as well. In addition to offering discounts to customers that purchase services in four or more countries, the program also offers some billing management software clients can use to track and analyse spending. It's good to see Starmap is doing something concrete. All the talk of technical cooperation and common sourcing is well and good, but it's products like this that will help it compete effectively against the likes of Vodafone.

Up in the Nordic region, TeliaSonera Finland has launched a service package, again aimed at corporate users, that combines all its wireless data systems -- HSCSD, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS and Wi-Fi -- into a single plan. Customers get a couple of laptop cards to access the different networks, and for one (undisclosed) price, they get unlimited use of the operators' Homerun Wi-Fi hotspots and 300MB of data transmissions on the mobile networks. Like the Starmap package, TeliaSonera will offer the plan across its service area (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), and at a uniform price, simplifying matters for pan-Nordic businesses.

While there are plenty of concerns about introducing mobile and wireless data into the enterprise, simplifying the sourcing and purchasing process lowers one barrier. The ability to use one vendor for both mobile voice and all flavors of mobile data, or use the same provider for their operations in several countries, offers carriers a significant advantage over their rivals. Smaller and second-tier operators must remain nimble and introduce these types of models to ward off the challenge from bigger competitors -- who although can likely decimate them on price, often can't draw together disparate parts of their business to create a cohesive service offering.