Cellular Pool Plans
Generally, a cellular pool plan is a means of consolidating minutes of cellular usage among two or more cellular telephone users. There is a fixed, monthly cost covering service and minutes for each user in the pool. The billing for the users in the pool is consolidated by the vendor and must be billed to a single billing address and paid for with a single, consolidated payment. As with any cellular service plan, other charges may apply. And, like other cellular plans, there are a number of different pool plans available, each at a different price and with a different number of calling minutes included.
Features and Options
Call detail (a monthly, printed list of all of the numbers called along with the date, time, and length of each call) for each user is provided with a pool plan. Additional options such as the cost of text messaging, internet access, GPS service, insurance, etc., are billed in addition to the pool plan. Voice mail may or may not have an additional charge. Rollover minutes, a feature found in some non-pool plans, are usually not included with pool plans. However, some pool plans provide additional free minutes of mobile-to-mobile and nights/weekends calling. Long distance calling is usually included at no additional charge.
Non-Pool vs. Pool Plan Minutes
In a non-pooled plan, a user who exceeds the number of plan minutes is subject to paying a pre-determined, per minute charge for each minute that exceeds the plan limit. This charge is in addition to the monthly service charge for the plan.
With a pool plan, one or more users in the pool may exceed their expected minutes of usage without penalty, as long as the usage of all of the users in the pool does not exceed the total minutes of the pool. It usually turns out that there are some members of the pool who exceed their monthly minutes, while others do not use all of their monthly minutes. Thus, the pool tends to level out or balance usage among pool users. This is the advantage of a pool plan-- that less expensive plans can be purchased for the group. Buying individual plans with more minutes than are needed to be "safe" is not necessary with pool plans. The pool becomes the safety net for individual users.
Of course, if the total pool minutes are exceeded, the pool will be billed a predefined, per minute charge for each minute used that exceeds the total number of minutes in the pool.
As with many consumptive purchases, increasing the volume, in this case consolidating cell phone participants in a pool plan, improves the economy of scale factor as relates to the cost of service and minutes. And usually, the more cellular telephones that can be included in a pool, the greater the efficiencies and cost savings. Consolidating all cellular telephones for a department into a single pool would usually be more efficient for usage than having only two or three cellular telephones in a pool. However, where there may be a requirement and associated effort to allocate cost to various programs within the department, it may prove more practical to consolidate and create pools at lower levels.
Remember, a key condition of a pool plan is that all cell numbers in a pool must be billed to one billing entity (cost center, address, location). Therefore, if a further breakdown or allocation of cost is required by the governmental agency (or department), it will be the agency’s responsibility. However, call detail reporting is provided for each number in the pool.
As with any cellular plan, pool plan effectiveness comes from having a right-sized plan and by monitoring monthly usage and adjusting the pool minutes up or down, accordingly. OTM recommends that each department or agency contact its cellular provider(s) and request that a review be conducted and recommendations be made on the most cost effective means of procuring its cellular service. This can be done at no vendor cost to the agency. Any review should include a consideration of using pool plans within the department. Reviews should be based on historical department usage data maintained by the cellular provider. An assessment should be made by comparing actual usage and billing history to that same actual usage as if it had been consumed under available pool plans or some other recommended plan.
Contact your state cellular service provider(s) for plan information.