Ever since it became clear that employees wouldn’t be dissuaded from bringing their own devices to work, companies have been figuring out ways to work with them without a) endangering their networks and data or b) paying for too much of employees’ voice or data usage.
The first problem gave rise to what we first called MDM (mobile-device management) and now EMM (enterprise mobility management) solutions, which enabled IT managers to build containers around company mobile apps, protecting them from potentially infected personal apps and games. The second problem was first addressed by expensing private wireless bills, a laborious task; or by giving out stipends for guestimated usage.
Two years ago, said Sundhar Annamalai, executive director at AT&T’s Advanced Mobility Solutions, “we recognized where enterprises were going in terms of [cordoned off] applications, and we saw we needed a model for how you extend data rate plans.” A year ago they launched the “bolt-on” data plan as part of their AT&T Work Platform, which allowed companies to buy extra MB or GB for employees who had AT&T postpaid accounts in good standing on their own devices. Whatever those end users did with their data, it would decrement the company’s bolted-on bucket first.
Starting now, companies can get more granular – and let’s face it, logical – about what data usage they pay for. The AT&T Work Data Rate Plan, announced Sept. 10, adds a separately metered data rate plan to an employee’s personal device. It uses the app-segregating abilities of the customer’s EMM system to bill the company directly – and only for those apps the company chooses. So, probably, company email, Salesforce.com, mobile sales orders, CRM and other business productivity tools. Probably not Dark Avengers or Words with Friends.
This should come as good news to the half of businesses that plan to move exclusively to BYOD for smartphones by 2017, according to Gartner.
As part of its upgraded AT&T’s Work Platform for BYOD, the carrier is also letting companies buy second, separately metered phone numbers for an employee’s personal device, allowing work-related calls and texts to be billed separately, as well. A smartphone or tablet achieves this dual personality by downloading AT&T’s proprietary VoIP app, associated with a public phone number. The softphone and can also send and receive SMS messages. Since the “work” line is essentially an over-the-top service, it also works for end users who aren’t AT&T voice customers. It obviously requires an AT&T data plan, however, and voice over IP calls use up MB on company-bought data plans unless used with Wi-Fi. The VoIP app runs on iOS as far back as Release 4.0 and on Android 2.2.
AT&T is offering the AT&T Work Platform on a month-to-month basis, with a new or pre-existing MobileIron, AirWatch by VMware or OpenPeak EMM solution. More EMM providers will be coming in the near future. Simple “bolt-on” plans can still be used in the absence of full-featured EMM deployments, but such tools reduce the user configuration steps for AT&T Work in addition to safeguarding mobile company data.
The service is not yet available for agent resale. Annamalai said that its broad appeal will make that happen, but could give no timetable.