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The manner in which many enterprises procure wireless services needs to be reassessed.  For those interested in deploying M2M networks or experiencing in-building wireless reception challenges (or concerned such challenges may arise), the standard procurement approach is no longer viable.

Wireless procurements typically focus on service and device pricing (with two-year refresh cycles) for generally-available service plans (and some custom pricing options) and smartphones and tablets.  Transition periods and renewal term options are atypical and often not demanded. Substantive SLAs are not offered.  The carriers determine network upgrades.  Reliable coverage varies. International service support is a decisional factor in some instances.  Service pricing, device discounts or accelerated refresh options, and customer experience (or concerns) regarding service coverage and reliability drive wireless procurement decisions.  

M2M.  Companies and government agencies considering a major commitment to M2M are challenged by the two-year procurement cycle.  A meaningful ramp-up period is needed to install the hundreds or thousands of devices associated with an M2M deployment. (Many M2M configurations utilize a combination of licensed or unlicensed frequencies to transmit data from devices being monitored to the aggregation points at which a cellular modem is located.)   M2M devices are not subsidized.  M2M networking remains a challenge.  Because M2M deployments provide essential inputs to company-specific data processing/data analytics resources, a stable, highly reliable wireless service is essential. 

Specialized MVNOs have been successful in offering end-to-end M2M solutions.  For companies looking to manage M2M networks and data flows internally, wireless service procurements should be geared to secure agreements that more closely resemble wireline WAN agreements. 

The term of agreements should be three years with two one-year renewal options; service metrics based on reliability and coverage with partial discontinuance and termination rights are warranted; pricing should be scaled downward to reflect the substantially lower data rates/usage per line for M2M services and that devices are not subsidized; and unified discounts for utilizing the carriers’ wireline services (MPLS or private line) for backhaul should be sought.    

In-Building Wireless Reception Challenges.  Enterprise customers face substantial uncertainty if and when their wireless carrier or carriers will address the enterprise’s in-building wireless reception challenges. These challenges will remain constant, at best, and likely increase over the next several years.  

Carriers continue to experience network capacity shortfalls as the demand for wireless broadband in high traffic areas continues to accelerate, including major urban areas.  Coverage is also impacted by materials and design practices used to achieve LEEDs status for new buildings. (Much like inside wiring, enterprise investment in one-premise distributed antenna systems (DAS) and, possibly, carrier-provided and managed small cells should be anticipated.)  

At least one wireless carrier publicly states it wants one-year’s advance notice from property owners for the carrier to install facilities to connect to a planned DAS and typically demands design approval with regard to the DAS.  It is no small irony that in a recent blog post AT&T calls upon the FCC to streamline the environmental review process to quicken the deployment of small cells and DAS installations, but is part of the wireless industry that struggles to support in-building wireless solutions.

Rather than hope for a favorable and timely resolution, customers should address these concerns by beginning their next wireless procurement much sooner to address wireless reception challenges.  

In the next wireless RFP, the enterprise should reserve the right to disqualify a respondent that declines to commit to support in-building reception solutions in a timely manner, and, among requested contract provisions, include the right to terminate the agreement if the carrier does not meet the commitment.  This approach is warranted until wireless carriers allocate the resources to deal with in-building wireless reception challenges in a more responsive manner.