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Business Telephony

You no longer need to buy a dual SIM phone & here’s why

When dual SIM smartphones first hit the market some years ago, they came as a huge relief to users who had been struggling to cope with the logistics of having more than one mobile phone account.

In parts of the globe where network coverage is patchy at best, having two or more subscriptions with different networks is a way of ensuring that some form of mobile telecommunication is available at a given time. But this required users to buy separate handsets for each account (expensive), or use a single phone, and keep swapping out the Subscriber Identity Module or SIM cards (very inconvenient).

And for consumers simply wishing to enjoy the benefits of a free choice of networks, dual SIM phones were a cost-effective and logical solution.

But time and technology keep marching on – and the rise of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a vehicle for telecoms delivery has brought a wealth of innovations in its wake.

Among these developments is virtualisation, or the creation and hosting of telecoms user profiles via software and cloud-based computing resources. And it’s one of the reasons why you no longer need to buy a dual SIM phone to expand your presence into different networks – and even into different geographical regions.

The Burner Option

Intelligence agents in popular TV shows and films are often seen buying (and soon afterwards, trashing) disposable cell phones so their calls and locations can’t be traced by whoever’s chasing them. These so-called “burner” phones have become a staple of this kind of fiction, and naturally they’re available on the street in real life, as well.

But burners also exist virtually.

Web applications like Jangl and Jaxtr appeared in 2005, allowing subscribers to exchange phone calls and text messages without having to divulge their personal or business phone numbers. Grand Central (which was acquired by Google and eventually became Google Voice) allowed users to create a single number that could route calls to multiple phones.

And in 2012, entrepreneurs Greg Cohn and Will Carter laid the foundations for what would eventually become Burner, an app which allows users to create temporary phone numbers that they can post on social media as their contact information, and use to receive and make text messages and calls.

A natural progression of this technology has led to the development of virtual phone number providers who spotted the opportunity to provide an invaluable service to legitimate businesses in the UK and beyond.

These services are able to allocate business phone numbers registered in the UK to mobile subscribers across the globe, creating an international presence.

The Dual SIM Dilemma

Advocates of dual SIM phones will give any number of reasons why they’re the best thing since sliced bread, including:

  • You can have two phone numbers on one device
  • You can get the best of both worlds, by using one network with competitive voice rates, and another with a great data plan
  • You’re more likely to always have a network signal of some kind
  • You can use one number for work, and the other for your personal life
  • You can insert a travel SIM (for a network that’s local) to make cheaper calls and avoid data roaming charges abroad

BUT…

  • You’re still limited to the capabilities of the hardware (phone and SIM cards)
  • All of these features (and more) are available from a virtual phone system
  • And there’s the “dual SIM” condition, which limits you to two networks

The Virtual SIM Alternative

A few years ago, a London-based company named Movirtu developed a system for generating virtual SIM cards, which may be used on shared or borrowed phones. Dialling a short USSD code is all it takes to contact a mobile network’s visitor location register (its subscriber database), informing the mobile network that a new number is now being used on the phone. Internet access isn’t required – just a connection to the mobile network carrier.

A couple of years ago, Movirtu was acquired by BlackBerry, which has packaged the technology into a solution that allows nine distinct phone numbers to be assigned to a single SIM card. The interface for this service is available as mobile apps for BlackBerry, Android and iOS, and is targeted at enterprise users looking to better manage their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) working practices.

The technology in principle has also been adopted by several virtual SIM providers, who use GSM connectivity and dedicated mobile apps to essentially “trick” a mobile phone into thinking there are one or more SIM cards installed – even if there’s no actual physical card in the device. These may then be provisioned virtually with numbers and services associated with any of the provider’s participating mobile carriers.

Multiple Advantages Over Dual SIM

Besides the obvious improvement on two whole phone numbers and (in some virtual SIM deployments) eliminating the need to even have a physical card installed, virtual SIM and virtual phone solutions have several advantages over the dual SIM alternative. These include:

  • The option to have different numbers for business, personal, voice calls, data services, and even roaming – all on the same phone
  • The ability to have different numbers to establish a local, regional, toll-free, or international presence. An example of this would be a service like Swytch, which gives subscribers a presence in the UK business arena through the provision of virtual UK business telephone numbers
  • The advanced feature sets, data handling, and Unified Communications capabilities of VoIP-backed virtual phone systems
  • Dedicated inboxes and call-handling options, making it easy to differentiate between phone numbers
  • The ability to create a clear separation between work and personal communications
  • The ability for enterprises to better manage their costs and billing, together with the allocation and management of virtual connections

Though the current state of technology hasn’t yet come up with a way of dispensing with single or dual SIM card slots entirely, there’s much to indicate that the future of telecommunications, like so many other aspects of modern life, is destined to be virtual.

If you’d like to stay ahead of the curve, and leave your dual SIM phone behind, get in touch with the telecoms experts at Swytch who will be happy to answer any questions and get you and your team set up with your new virtual numbers.

5 tactics for reducing the cost of your business telephony

Business telephony can eat up a fair percentage of your annual budget – especially if you’ve a large or widely dispersed workforce to cater for, are using equipment that’s well past its “sell by” date, or haven’t fine-tuned your operations in such a way as to reduce running costs.

The good news is, you don’t need to hire an economist to implement effective strategies for reducing the cost of your business communications. Here are five tactics that you can use, right away.

1. Switch to More Cost-Effective Hardware & Infrastructure

First, consider your existing phone system. If it’s more than a few years old, then chances are it has been overtaken in terms of functionality and efficiency by advances in technology. This will be especially true if you’re using a legacy landline system with copper wiring and an on-premises PBX (public branch exchange).

Updating and overhauling a system like this can come with a heavy price tag – money that might be more productively spent on modern equipment and more appropriate technology.

In particular, it may be wise to invest in a cloud-based telephone system, such as hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or a hybrid cloud solution if your organisation has the PBX infrastructure and IT personnel required to make managing and maintaining such a system economically viable.

Otherwise, a subscription-based business telephony package with infrastructure provided by a cloud service will eliminate the need for a substantial investment in hardware – and the management and maintenance overheads will be taken up by your service provider.

2. Shop Around

With business telephony vendors maintaining a high-profile internet presence to attract new customers – and frequently offering special deals and free trials – it’s very much a buyer’s market, so take the time to perform some due diligence, and look into the alternatives.

Shop for service providers, equipment vendors, or carriers that offer the most competitive rates. Many companies now offer bundled services for business telecoms customers, where all services may be held under a single provider at a discounted rate. There may also be discounts or package deals available for small businesses, or enterprise packages for high-volume users.

Even if you’re happy with the level of service you’re receiving with your current provider, presenting them with proof of the lower rates available from other companies may enable you to negotiate a better pricing deal.

3. Choose A Plan That Matches Your Patterns of Usage

Assess how telecommunications resources are actually being used in your organisation: who’s texting the most, how much data is being consumed per month, etc. Check each phone bill for surcharges – and aspects of a service which you may be paying for, but rarely or ever actually use.

Then adjust your subscription plan, accordingly. If text and Instant Messaging are high-value functions for your staff, then contact your provider to see about increasing allowances for these. And reduce or eliminate any billable features or services that are being under-used.

It also helps to read the fine print, before signing a service contract – and negotiating the terms of your Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the provider, whenever possible. That way, you can establish exactly what it is that the plan you’re subscribing to actually provides, what it doesn’t (and any additional charges for extra functions or features), and what your monthly limits are.

4. Adopt A Mobile Device Management (MDM) Policy

It’s possible that your business may be operating some kind of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, with workers using their personal smartphones and other telecoms-enabled mobile hardware for work purposes. With such a system, it’s notoriously difficult for management and IT supervisors to maintain proper oversight on where and how business-related information is being stored and transmitted, which mobile applications are being downloaded and installed, or patterns of data usage.

That’s where a formalised policy on Mobile Device Management (or MDM) can be of use. An MDM policy enables you to officially set up rules governing how your workers use their personal devices in the handling of corporate data. It also empowers you to establish a “white list” of approved software, and to set up procedures for dealing with any devices that are lost or stolen.

And if certain features or service privileges are being abused or over-used to the extent that they incur expensive charges, then these features may be blocked or restricted.

The cloud-hosted Swytch platform – which allows companies to assign UK-registered business numbers to their workers’ personal phones – offers MDM capability within a unique service offering that empowers businesses to adopt a BYOD policy “straight out of the box”. Subscription to the service gives immediate access to dedicated mobile apps for deployment, and an easy to use online dashboard for administration, cost management, and provisioning.

5. Integrate With VoIP

If you’re using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), then cost efficiency and reduced tariffs will be written into your business telephony system’s DNA. Calls within your organisation and to other users on the same network may attract minimal or no charge, while using the internet as a carrier for long-distance and international calls effectively reduces these charges to local rates.

On top of that, the integration of voice communications with data handling and office applications gives you lower-cost alternatives to inter-office phone calls, such as Instant Messaging and chat facilities.

Adopting any or all of the tactics above will help to streamline your enterprise communications, and go a significant way towards reducing the cost of your business telephony system.