Worried about 4G data costs? Here's a simple solution

The new iPad's 4G support has some IT pros worried about ginormous cellular bills -- but their fear is misplaced

Another new user-oriented technology, another fear reaction by IT and the vendors who serve it -- this time, it's the third-generation iPad announced last week. The fear factor: the 4G LTE radio available in some configurations. 4G can theoretically download data really fast, and the same carriers who keep telling us there's not enough bandwidth are now suggesting we use those "blazing" 4G speeds to download movies from the Apple iTunes Store or access them from iCloud.

Of course the wailing has already started, with predictions of users running up huge overage bills on their iPads and bankrupting their companies.

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Give me a break! Any vendor or IT pro who tells you that is incompetent and should be shown the door. iPad, iPhone, and all other mobile data plans do not work that way. You don't get charged automatically for extra data once you exceed your cap, as the cellular carriers used to do for voice and in the early days of data. A price Apple charged carriers for getting the iPhone (and later the iPad) was to not screw customers that way.

Instead, when you near your limit, you get an email from the carrier letting you know your data bandwidth will soon be cut off and you can buy another tranche (for the same price as the one you just exhausted) if you want to keep going. This approach applies to any smartphone or tablet, as carriers realized they couldn't get away with the old bad practices for any customer if they weren't allowed to do it for iOS customers.

Given that the 4G iPad data plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the same as for the 3G models, your costs should remain stable. You may worry about people being tempted to download more because of the increased speed, but even if that happens, there are several simple ways to control such usage.

Managing mobile data costs via MDM is nonsensical
Most important to understand is that you can control usage without the aid of additional technology. Some mobile device management (MDM) vendors are making the rounds and raising the specter of 4G costs, proposing that IT adopt their tools to monitor 4G usage and prevent overages. That's bull.

First, the cost of these tools per device per month is about the same as a basic data plan; getting an MDM tool solely for this purpose effectively doubles your bandwidth costs without increasing bandwidth. You're better off encouraging users to do more on 4G instead, so you get some use out of that spend.

Don't forget that MDM tools can manage the carrier spend only if your company has the carrier contracts. Your users' plans are beyond their control. Given the trend to have employees choose or buy their own devices and get their own plan (often for family discounts), there should be very few employees whose mobile data service is contracted by the company. The notion of a company provisioning mobile telecom is passé. Instead, most are moving to a reimbursement or stipend model, both of which give the employee an allowance. If these employees want to spend their own hard-earned dollars for additional 4G tranches to watch "Judge Judy" or "Top Chef" during the commutes, let them.

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