Multinational companies are signing global and regional sourcing deals to manage their mobile devices, but only gradually, according to research from analyst group Ovum.
Business can make significant savings by centralising the way they manage mobile devices, but until now many have been held back by the complexity of the task.
Over the past year there have been a trickle of deals, as mobile phone operators improve their services to multinationals and offer regional deals, said analyst Pauline Trotter (pictured).
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"The trend is towards managed mobility deals. It's quite slow. This is because the operator's offers have not been very mature. Most multinationals want a contract that covers their entire estate. Some have offices in 250 countries. There is not a single mobile operator that has operations in all of these countries," Pauline Trotter said.
Multinationals have centralised their fixed line and data networks and driven down costs by signing deals for global VPN networks. But centralising mobile devices has proved more difficult, said Trotter in an interview with Computer Weekly.
"Mobile hasn't typically been bought through the IT department. It has been bought through procurement and some companies' departmental budgets," she said. "Most companies have no idea how much they are spending on mobile."
"In the US there is a whole employee-owned mentality. Employees bring in their own equipment and get reimbursed. It means companies are paying consumer rates and not getting any of the scale if they bought centrally."
Multinationals are now taking a more realistic approach, and are looking for regional managed service contracts rather than global contracts, says Ovum.
"There is a trend to centralisation. If you spoke to multinationals in the past, they were talking about a single managed global service contract. Now they are saying it would be good to have one contract for Asia and one contract for Europe. A bit of realism has entered the picture,"
DHL has signed contracts with different telecoms providers in Europe and Asia. For example, Vodafone won a contract to provide a managed network to connect 400 sites in 67 countries in March.
Unilever signed a deal with Vodafone to supply 50,0000 Unilever employees with devices, connectivity and managed mobile services in December 2010.
The Spanish group Telefonica opened business units across 15 European countries in September last year, offering WANS and LANS, mobile voice and data, and centralised internet access.
"I would like to think the trend will continue and I think it will. It's pretty clear that companies can't progress strategically without having control over the way they provide mobile. And I think the products will continue to mature," said Trotter.
Some multinationals, however, will decide to allow staff to use their own mobile equipment at work, rather than centralising.
"They will have to have policies on who can do what, deciding which types of behaviour are risky or not risky and how you divide company applications from the games," she commented.