4G WAN: Cost and usage

Posted by SAS on Mar 14, 2017 03:35:00 PM

Managing the cost of 4G WAN

Usage and cost are important considerations when designing a 4G WAN connection or choose a Managed Service Provider, especially relating to the SIMs you use to provide your channels.  When exploring 4G WAN, it’s important to consider how you will measure usage and control costs accurately.  Clearly, it's better for you to address it at the start than your Finance Director addressing it later!

  • Bundles and packages are useful, if you know exactly how much your sites are using and expect little or no variation – but beware of excess usage charges;
  • Pay as you use offers a true reflection of what you use, billing you more accurately - but beware the resolution they use to measure the amount used;
  • If you use a managed service provider to deliver a 4G WAN solution, they should help evaluate your usage and make a recommendation. They should also be able to set you up with accurate usage reporting and alerts when limits are being reached, to help you control cost and reduce bill shock

How will you be charged for usage?

Cost and usage control depends on the pricing model your chosen provider follows. Most will either adopt a ‘bundled’ or a ‘pay as you use’ model. There are pros and cons of each, and some important questions you should ask before deciding which is best for you.

Bundles and packages

Some will offer packages with bundled usage included at a set price. While this headline offer may be tempting at first, it’s important to establish if the bundle you’re being offered is truly reflective of your use, and what happens if you go over your allocation. Questions you should ask include:

  • Can you pool your usage across all the SIMs you use from a carrier? Data pooling allows you to aggregate your usage across the multiple SIMs in your 4G routers, keeping your costs lower by reducing the excess usage charges when your most-used channels exceed their cap.
  • What’s the minimum term? It might be as little as one month, but watch out for longer contracts!
  • Does your managed service provider provide access to all the UK carriers? And International carriers?
  • If you exceed your bundled usage, what are the overage charges?
  • If SIMs are labelled as ‘unlimited’, do they have a fair usage policy, and what happens if this is breached?
  • Will your operator allow you to use standard SIMs in cellular routers?
  • How frequently can bundle limits be adjusted if you find you’re repeatedly exceeding or coming in under your usage limit?

Overall, bundles are ideal if your department knows exactly how much each site is going to use and are confident that there is little or no change to this usage as months’ pass. Unfortunately, data usage rarely remains this stable, so you could quickly find yourself paying over or under the odds.

Pay as you use

Other service providers will adopt a model where you are charged for what you use, often per GB. While the headline figure may not sound as tempting as with a bundle, we often find that this pricing model provides a much more accurate reflection of your usage. It also means you can account for peaks and troughs in demand without having to worry about the threat of bill shock in one month, or paying for data you simply don’t use in another. Still, there are questions you should ask around this pricing model too:

  • What is the length of the contract?
  • Are there any early termination charges should you need to break the contract?
  • Will you still be charged for the service, even if your usage is zero?

Which is right for you?

If you’re not sure which model best fits your needs, you should speak to the service providers you are evaluating for your 4G WAN solution. Good providers will be able to discuss your needs during the design phase of your project, establish your usage and recommend the best solution going forward.

How will you monitor usage?

Once you have evaluated potential partners and decided on a pricing model, you’ll want to remain aware of your usage. You don’t want to be surprised by a jump in usage only when it appears on your monthly bill. Nor do you want your critical traffic to simply be turned off when a limit is unexpectedly breached or your carrier imposes a fair usage policy.

Proper monitoring and reporting is beneficial for both you and your MSP. It gives both parties an overview of your solution and the ability to see trends, set and see when you’re approaching usage limits, and avoid any possibility of bill shock. You should ask potential MSPs:

  • Can you set automated alerts when you’re approaching a certain usage level?
  • Can they stop or throttle your connections once they reach a certain usage level?
  • Will your usage and charges be presented on a single amalgamated bill, or a series of bills?