Five must-have Group Policy settings when your colleagues use 3G / 4G connections with Windows 8 devices

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TabletsettingsWith wireless connectivity getting available in an increasing number of countries and locations, the business value of having access to wireless networks on the go (whether they are 3G or 4G networks) is getting more clear. However, where some of the providers still offer flat fee subscriptions, most of them these days work with a data usage cap.

With the wrong settings, working with devices on 3G and/or 4G networks can get very costly, especially when your provider works with a data usage cap. Use these five settings to configure (the Organization Unit containing) Windows 8 devices on the go:

1. Prohibit connection to roaming Mobile Broadband networks

Connectivity to 3G and 4G networks may be flat fee and may or may not include a data usage cap. This makes the cost involved predictable. Roaming, however, is costly. Roaming in this context means using a 3G or 4G network when the client is registered on a network that is not the providers own. This typically happens when a 3G / 4G capable device is used abroad.

If this policy setting is enabled, all automatic and manual connection attempts to roaming 3G and 4G networks are blocked until the client registers with the home provider network. If this policy setting is not configured or is disabled, clients are allowed to connect to roaming 3G and 4G networks.

2. Set 3G Cost

This policy, located in Computer Configuration, Network, WWAN Service, WWAN Media Cost can be used to configure the type of 3G subscription on the local machine. If this policy setting is enabled, a drop-down list box presenting possible cost values will be active. Selecting one of the following values from the list will set the cost of all 3G connections on the local machine:

  • Unrestricted: Use of this connection is unlimited and not restricted by usage charges and capacity constraints.
  • Fixed: Use of this connection is not restricted by usage charges and capacity constraints up to a certain data limit.
  • Variable: This connection is costed on a per byte basis.

If this policy setting is disabled or is not configured, the cost of 3G connections is ‘fixed’ by default.

Windows will change its behavior, based on the two settings ‘Set default download behavior for BITS jobs on costed networks’ and ‘Enable file synchronization on costed networks’. Enabling this setting is the first step to controlling the amount of data transferred over 3G networks.

3. Set 4G Cost

In the same folder as the above setting, you can also configure the cost for next-generation 4G networks. This is useful, since subscription plans between 3G and 4G subscriptions may differ and may even differ within the same subscription based on connectivity method.

The same settings (unrestricted, fixed and variable) can be set, and by default the cost of 4G connection is ‘fixed’.

4. Enable file synchronization on costed networks

This policy setting, located in Computer configuration, Neto determines whether offline files are synchronized in the background when it could result in extra charges on 3G and 4G plans. If you enable this setting, synchronization can occur in the background when the user's network is roaming, near, or over the plan's data limit. This may result in extra charges. If this setting is disabled or not configured, synchronization will not run in the background on network folders when the user's network is roaming, near, or over the plan's data limit. The network folder must also be in "slow-link" mode, as specified by the “Configure slow-link mode” policy in Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Network, Offline Files) to avoid network usage.

5. Set default download behavior for BITS jobs on costed networks

This policy setting, located in Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Network, Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), defines the default behavior for Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) for background transfers when the system is connected to a costed network as defined with the “Set 3G Cost” and “Set 4G Cost” settings above.

If you enable this policy setting, you can define a default download policy for each BITS job priority. This setting does not override a download policy explicitly configured by the application that created the BITS job, but does apply to jobs that are created by specifying only a priority. For example, you can specify that background jobs are by default to transfer only when on uncosted network connections, but foreground jobs should proceed only when not roaming. The values that can be assigned are:

  • Always transfer
  • Transfer unless roaming
  • Transfer unless surcharge applies (when not roaming or overcap)
  • Transfer unless nearing limit (when not roaming or nearing cap)
  • Transfer only if unconstrained
  • Custom (allows you to specify a bitmask, in which the bits describe cost states allowed or disallowed for this priority)


Further reading

Windows 8 Has What it Takes for 3G/4G Mobile Broadband
Engineering Windows 8 for mobile networks
Microsoft details Windows 8's 3G, 4G tuning
Microsoft's Surface tablets won’t have 3G or 4G connectivity
Windows 8 Optimized for 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks
Does Windows 8 support 3G, 4G, etc ..
Windows 8: WiFi and 3G connections under control
Windows 8 promising easier time juggling mobile networks
Five reasons businesses should adopt Windows 8
Microsoft makes it easy to have 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi connectivity in Windows 8

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