After mobile app management, the next step for BYOD can be split phone numbers and split billing

While BYOD always gets a lot of attention, lately two specific related trends have come to the fore: having separate work and personal phone numbers routed to a single mobile device, and more options for split working and personal billing. Neither of these trends is actually new.

While BYOD always gets a lot of attention, lately two specific related trends have come to the fore: having separate work and personal phone numbers routed to a single mobile device, and more options for split working and personal billing.

Neither of these trends is actually new. We’ve had stipends, telecom expense management, unified communications, and business VoIP apps for years. But now there’s an obvious convergence point for all of this around EMM and BYOD.

Split phone numbers

I love having two phone numbers for one device. There’s no need for me to give out my personal cell phone number, and people that are calling me don’t have to pick between an office phone number and a cell phone number, since there’s just one phone number on my business cards.

There are a lot of different ways to do this: VoIP services that can connect to the public switched telephone network, VoIP that connects to other VoIP clients, having carriers route two numbers to a device, call forwarding, etc. As a result, there are also many different categories of vendors that can get in the space: business VOIP providers; collaboration and messaging vendors; carriers; UC vendors; EMM vendors. (Personally I do this on my own with Google Voice.)

Split phone numbers go hand in hand with mobile app management. We talk about work and personal data separation, and the ability to provision a complete set of work apps and resources to a phone, so why not have telephony be a part of this, too? It creates the complete package.

Some examples that I’ve seen recently are Dell’s workspace app that includes a Vonage VoIP client; Amtel’s Plum, BlackBerry WorkLife, and the EMM/VoIP offerings from AT&T. I’m sure there are many more.

Split billing

The attraction of split billing is obvious: users don’t have to worry about their work apps running up their bills, and businesses don’t have to subsidize their employee’s Facebook browsing or Pandora streaming. Split billing has also received more attention after the California Court of Appeal ruling in Cochran vs. Schwan’s Home Service (otherwise known as “that one California BYOD ruling”).

With the advent of mobile app management, companies can precisely measure the amount of data traffic coming used by corporate apps (either with instrumentation built into the apps themselves or by looking at VPN or mobile gateway traffic). Flat stipends for phones have been around for a long time, but the idea is that this way you can make reimbursements based on actual usage. This isn’t completely ideal, though—what happens when you hit a certain usage level and your data is more expensive? Or even worse, your speed gets throttled? Who’s responsible for this more expensive data—you or the company?

But now carriers and EMM vendors have even more options: It’s possible to make it so that the charges for data used by corporate apps never even hit employees’ plans or show up on their phone bills—the company pays for it directly. AT&T is providing this service in conjunction with their own EMM offering, and they recently opened it up so that it can work with AirWatch, MobileIron, or Good Technology. BlackBerry announced a similar product called WorkLife, though the partner carriers haven’t been announced. Good Technology is rolling out a service that works no matter what carrier employees use for their BYOD phone.

When it comes to voice calling, most employees are less concerned. With so many unlimited voice and messaging plans these days, who cares about how many minutes go to work and personal calls? (Seriously, remember rollover minutes and waiting until after 9pm to call your friends!?) (Note that regardless of unlimited plans, the California Court of Appeal ruling comments on this specifically.) If there’s work phone number using a VoIP app as described above, then the data it uses can be measured and separated using mobile app management, just like any other corporate apps. 

One possible consequence of split billing is that the combined amount paid by employees and their employers could work out to be more than it would ordinarily (though the company can always take advantage of volume discounts). But hey, if both parties (employees and their company) think they’re getting a good deal because they don’t have to subsidize the other’s phone usage, then who cares? (Plus the carriers will love that!)

The split billing conversation doesn’t really apply in situations where employees are already allowed to use work phones for personal usage. Maybe at one time this was an IT decision, but to that employee, that’s part of their benefits package (even if it’s just assumed and informal). If you take that away, then you’ll have some ticked-off employees on your hands.

The end result

Overall, the end result of these developments is that once you bring everything together—separate work phone numbers, managed corporate apps, separate work billing—then you can build a very comprehensive package for BYOD. It’s as close as you can get to having two separate phones, but still with the convenience of only actually having one normal phone.

This isn’t going to be for every company right now, but between EMM and the communications industry, there are a lot of new and interesting options coming together.

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It's good to see that the US is slowly catching up with the rest of the world who have been able to take advantage of dual (triple and even quad) SIM phones to link multiple numbers and plans to a single device for the last 15 years or so.


Was thinking more software such as Convoi/Sendhub technology than multiple sims...