Mobile Data and LTE Solutions for Small Businesses

Mobile Data and LTE have become an indispensable business tool as more entrepreneurs make use of their smartphones to run…

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Small businesses are among the biggest beneficiaries of the mobile data and LTE solutions. Mobile connectivity has become an indispensable business tool as more entrepreneurs make use of their smartphones to run their businesses. According to the SME South Africa’s Landscape Report a large majority of small business owners in South Africa use smartphones in their businesses all the time. The same report shows that mobile data is the most pervasive connectivity solution.

Mobile data and LTE Solutions use in South Africa

Mobile data is internet content delivered to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets over a wireless cellular connection. There are a number of generations of mobile networks in South Africa, including 2G, 3G, LTE, 4G/LTE and 5G mobile network speeds. The most widely used data network is 3G. Research by Statistica shows that 99.9 percent of the population in South Africa had access to the 3G mobile network. This is followed by 4G/LTE coverage which increased significantly from 53 percent in 2015 to 97.7 percent in 2021.

As the fourth major generation of mobile network technology, 4G/LTE, substantially improves on previous generations in several respects. Most significantly, 4G/LTE offers higher bandwidth, increasing the speed of data transfer. It also provides faster response times from the network and offers improved spectrum efficiency, which increases overall network capacity.

Fifth generation wireless technology (5G) is the latest mobile network. It offers greater 5G speeds and lower latency which means you can connect multiple devices to the Internet. Most significantly, the much faster data rates of 5G connections allow businesses to use cloud-based and remote services. Use of 5G is growing in the country, coverage grew from 0.7% in 2020, to 7.5% in 2021. This is based on data in the latest State of the ICT Sector Report, compiled by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

The benefits of using mobile data and LTE solutions for small businesses

Affordable and reliable connectivity solutions allow business owners to fully leverage the benefits of technology. Through the use of mobile data and LTE solutions, small businesses can attain a competitive edge over their competitors by becoming more agile, responsive, and innovative.

The guide below details the major advantages of mobile data and LTE solutions for small businesses.

Increased flexibility and mobility

The main reasons businesses invest in mobile data technology is to enjoy greater mobility, flexibility, and the ability to work remotely.

Mobile data and LTE solutions are the ideal solution for small offices, as well as people who work from home. Compared to fibre, you are more likely to find your areas covered with a mobile network, as LTE works with coverage from towers throughout the country. Fibre coverage remains limited in South Africa for now as the option continues to roll out in all areas.

Ultimately the technology enables small businesses to work from anywhere, at any time, without losing connection, thus increasing productivity and profit.

Cost savings

Mobile data and LTE solutions can help small businesses increase revenue and reduce costs.

Unlike fixed-line broadband connections or fibre installations, mobile data and LTE solutions do not have any installation costs. Typically all that’s required is a router and a SIM card. Therefore businesses can easily and quickly get connected to the internet without any upfront expenses to worry about. Mobile connectivity also enables remote work which comes with direct cost reductions, including reduced travel costs and saving of office rental costs.

LTE also opens up businesses to cloud-based applications and online tools such as e-commerce platforms, accounting software and POS and payment gateway systems. These often have lower upfront costs and require less hardware and IT infrastructure, which can result in significant cost savings for businesses.

For businesses on a tight budget, most of the cellular networks offer affordable options or businesses depending on their usage or data plan.

Faster and more reliable internet access

Fast and stable data networks help small businesses stay productive and reduce downtime. LTE speeds are faster than traditional broadband and are up to three times faster than 3G mobile data.

In practice, businesses are able to connect multiple devices simultaneously, which makes for easy sharing of files, documents and effortless collaboration in the office. It’s also ideal for video conferencing as it has reduced network delays. Additionally, it’s ideal for near-immediate delivery of time-sensitive data, such as for real-time interaction or transactions.

The fastest network option for small businesses is, however,  the 5G network. It has greater capacity so it can cope with the higher demand of mobile devices. It also boasts reduced latency which means businesses can make use of new technologies such as AR and VR technologies, as well as IoT.

Improved collaboration and communication

Mobile data and LTE solutions can enhance collaboration and communication among employees, customers, and partners, by simplifying access to files and enabling collaboration from any location. Additionally, teams can stay connected through video conferencing and maintain ongoing communication.

Companies with remote workforce are able to have remote access to important business applications. This means they are able to attend to co-workers and customers without any disruptions, thereby increasing productivity and uptime.

As a result businesses not only benefit from increased sales, but also improved customer service as staff is more responsive to customers when out of the office.

Enhanced security and data protection

It’s important for small businesses to protect their sensitive information and keep their networks safe from cyber threats.

Accessing the internet via a cellular network is more secure than using public Wi-fi networks. Data transferred through 5G, LTE, and 4G connections are encrypted which means it’s protected from outside threats.

Improved customer experience

Mobile data and LTE solutions can help small businesses deliver a better customer experience, by allowing faster response times, more personalised interactions, and greater convenience.

Businesses can also access a range of software that provides a more cost-effective way for businesses to offer client support and organise interactions and marketing efforts. With the growing popularity of mobile payment software, using mobile data businesses can allow customers to pay using card and online payment facilities.

Increased productivity and efficiency

Mobile data and LTE solutions can increase productivity by allowing small businesses to work more efficiently and stay connected.

The internet provides businesses access to tools that allows employees to automate previously time-consuming manual processes. These digital solutions also provide small businesses with better insights into their operations, such as tracking expenses or inventory, managing logistics, and analysing customer data.

Lastly, access to reliable and real-time data empowers business owners to make better decisions which can ultimately save the business money and increase revenue.

How to choose the right mobile data plan and LTE solution for your business needs and budget

There are key factors to consider when selecting a business smartphone data plan to suit your business needs – and your budget.

How many business users you have – It’s important to factor in how many people you will need to be connected to your mobile data or LTE network. The number of devices that are connected to your mobile data or LTE network can impact the overall performance and speed of the network. When too many devices are connected, the network may become congested, which can slow down internet speeds, cause delays in data transfer, and lead to dropped connections.

Your business needs and use cases –  The type of activities employees need to use the internet for will determine the right mobile data plan and LTE solution for your business. Some online activities use more data than others such as watching YouTube videos, live streaming conferences, or downloading or uploading big files. Activities that use less data include sending an email, calendar or browsing the internet.

Uncapped and Capped packages – Capped data has a set data amount per month and is determined by the package signed up. Once allocated data is depleted, a data top up is required to regain a connection. Alternatively, uncapped packages offer unlimited data per month, and no data top ups required. While uncapped packages may seem attractive, it’s crucial that business owners know their data usage to make sure they are not overpaying for unused data.

Network coverage – It is always important to consider the areas where your employees are located and whether your provider of choice has coverage. Choose a network that provides good coverage in these areas to ensure that your employees can stay connected.

Contract length – Consider the length of the contract that you will be held liable for as it can impact the flexibility and cost of the service. Typically longer contracts have lower monthly costs, but they may also make it more difficult for the company to switch to a different provider if you are unhappy with the service.

How to manage data usage and avoiding overage charges

By managing data usage business owners can efficiently monitor and handle business data, reduce costs, and improve productivity within their businesses.

Below are tips for business owners to manage data usage.

Set limits on specific apps based on their level of importance

Consider setting limits on specific apps that can be used at work for example email, social media or streaming video while at work.

Business owners can also set a limit on the amount of data employees can use on their device each month to ensure that they stay within budget. This will help you save money in the long run because it prevents employees from going beyond their allocated data.

Measure and track

Employee data usage on business devices should be tracked to identify any unnecessary or excessive usage that can result in higher costs. This can help businesses make informed decisions about their mobile data plans. Some indicators that can be measured include – data usage, the amount of data used or consumed, data consumption, the amount of time spent using a device, as well as employee productivity (how much work gets done on a device compared to how much time is spent using it).

Implement a data usage policy

For businesses that provide employees with internet access it’s important to have a data usage policy to clearly define what activities are allowed and those that are not.

Below are examples of what can be included in a data usage policy

  • A statement that the company’s data is confidential and should not be shared with anyone outside of your organisation.
  • The types of activities that are prohibited, such as using personal devices in the workplace or downloading malicious software into corporate equipment.
  • Explanations about how to report any violations of the policy.
  • A statement that data usage is a serious matter.
  • An explanation of what types of information are considered confidential.
  • The consequences for violating the policy.
  • What types of data are confidential in nature (such as proprietary information or personal information).
  • How employees should handle confidential data.
  • The consequences of unauthorised access to confidential data.