A new service piggybacks a company number on the back of the employee's personal number to save money for both and make Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) easier.
The idea of people wanting to use their own mobile but have work pay for calls opens a can of worms. The spectre of BYOD brings with it the issue of who pays for calls and who owns the number.
Anyone from a City trader to a hairdresser who changes employers might want their customers to carry on calling their private number to do business, but naturally that’s not what the employer wants.
The system from Smart Numbers is a true GSM service, but does not have a SIM and gives two full numbers on a smartphone. The phone uses the employee's mobile number as a host but when the user makes a call using the business number, the call is routed so that it doesn’t incur a charge on the host SIM, either by calling a free number or by using the ring-back function. Users can choose to make calls through either number.
The business grew out of one which provided flexible fixed numbers for BT and then for a number of major corporates and has now extended into mobile.
Smart Numbers is in the unusual position of having its own numbers issued by Ofcom; this means it can control routing and record calls.
It also leads to a lot of problems. The Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) can be sniffy about including calls from their mobile numbers to Ofcom-allocated numbers in bundles of minutes unless they know who the receiving operator is.
Number portability can also be difficult, but Smart Numbers claims to be on top of this. The service has a gateway that links SMS to email and fully supports SMS, which can also be hard for new entrants to get working.
Call recording is particularly useful for businesses such as those in the financial services, which are mandated to record calls, and while customers don’t have to be told when a call is being recorded, employees do. Having all calls recorded on one number and not on the employee's personal number makes it all a lot straightforward.
The service, along with its associated app, runs on iOS 7 or greater and Android 4.0 or newer. Presumably discounting Windows Phone, Smart Numbers says this includes “all smartphones”.
Smart Numbers' James Foley explained to The Register that it costs companies over £30 a month to maintain an employee’s phone and that they can reduce that cost if the employee buys their own phone and the company pays for the business calls using the Smart Numbers service.
It also saves employees from paying for making business calls. When the employee is roaming, the system will use ring-back to reduce the call rate but employees SIMs will still be charged.
There is no easy solution to the roaming issue – for that you have to go to Truphone – but then you don’t get the two numbers on one phone. ®