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Survey: Companies need to rein in wireless spending

Yankee Group surveyed 100,000 wireless phone users and found that even though many expense part of the bill to their companies, a significant portion ended up costing their firms more by buying phones on their own.

According to a recent Yankee Group survey, most corporations have only a weak understanding of their employees' spending on wireless phones and service.

The Yankee Group's "Wireless Business User 100k" survey asked 100,000 households if they had a wireless business phone and how they paid for it. People without business phones were asked to answer on behalf of a person in their household who uses a wireless phone for business purposes.

The Boston-based analyst firm also found that many companies fail to keep track of the myriad of wireless carriers employees use to provide service for business phones and, as a result, those businesses often miss opportunities for consolidation and special deals.

The survey asked how many people worked at the business users' company, how the user goes about expensing their wireless calls and a number of questions aimed at rating the various carriers.

Adam Zawell, a Yankee Group analyst who headed up the survey, said Nextel Communications Inc. faired "extremely" well in the ratings from a business-to-business (B2B) standpoint. The company captured 37% of the market for corporate-liable customers, or users who expense their entire cell phone bill each month.

The analyst said Verizon Wireless exceeded his expectations by leading the B2B market overall. Verizon had the biggest share among B2B users, regardless of their method of paying the bill.

"We knew Verizon had a high market share overall," Zawell said, "but we didn't think it was this high in the business market."

Among the other findings, Yankee Group learned that corporations lack control over a large portion of wireless spending. Almost one-third of business users referenced in the survey acquired their wireless phone without company input, and yet they expense some or all of the bill back to their employer.

Yankee Group also found that approximately 29% of the U.S. wireless market can be considered "business" users.

On the vendor side, Yankee Group found that carriers seeking to improve their B2B market strategies need a better understanding of how their subscriber bases are segmented by type, geography and company sizes.

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Alex El Homsi, president and CEO of Woburn, Mass.-based Trilog Group Inc., which makes a development platform for IBM Lotus Domino programmers, said he's not surprised to find that companies often fail to consolidate wireless carriers.

But, Homsi said, corporations might have an easier time getting employees to switch to a single carrier now that it's possible for them to keep their old phone numbers.

"Consolidation was not easy because you're telling people to change their phone numbers," Homsi said. "But I don't think it's an issue anymore."

With that in mind, Homsi said wireless providers might earn some good faith among users by making it easier for them to switch their phone numbers to a new carrier when the time comes.

"Wireless providers make it so difficult to change providers," he said.

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