Dual Sim

One Phone, Two Numbers: Dual-SIM Phones and BYOD

Dual SimAn often-ignored aspect of BYOD, as it applies to smartphones at least, is the question of the phone number. Do employees make work calls from their personal number, in which case how do you stop them taking their contacts with them when they leave? Do they make personal calls on their work number, with all the complications that implies? Or do they prefer carrying two devices, thereby negating some of the advantages of BYOD?

During a chance conversation with a friend of a friend who works as a telecoms research analyst, we realized that one way to deal with this could be to use mobile phones capable of accepting two SIMs, with the user able to receive calls and texts on both and choose which line to use when making a call or sending a text message.

Until fairly recently, dual-SIM cellphones were most popular in the Far East and in emerging markets, where there are countries with multiple networks with incomplete coverage, and where people regularly cross borders. Then they started to pitch up in parts of Europe, especially in countries where it was already common to have multiple numbers for different callers, and where people might live in one country but work in another.

Their provenance has changed too. Although the very first dual-SIM phone was Finnish (from the now-forgotten phonemaker Benefon), the focus subsequently moved to mainland China, where copy shops produced dual-SIM phones that bore a strong resemblance to better-known models, and sometimes carried badges along the lines of Samsong or Nokiia. The major manufacturers avoided making them because of their strong links to the mobile networks, who hated the idea of their users not being tied to a single network.

Those ties have loosened now, though, and dual-SIM phones are readily available in most markets from the likes of HTC, Nokia, Samsung and Sony, not just from the Chinese cloning houses — although the latter should not be ignored, as some of them can supply high quality products at remarkably low prices.

Most of those available today are dual-SIM dual-active (DSDA), with two transceivers so they can connect to two networks at once; each can have a different ring tone, and you may even be able to switch between active calls without disconnecting either of them. However, to reduce interference and save battery life they will typically have one 2G/3G SIM slot and one that is 2G-only. Normally you would assign the data connection to the 3G-capable slot, so another popular use is to have your main voice number in slot 2 and a data SIM in slot 1.

Here is how this could fit in with BYOD: you recommend and support (or buy and issue) a choice of dual-SIM phones, where the company SIM goes in slot 1 and the employee then uses slot 2 for their own SIM. The company covers the data connection, not least because it ought to be able to get good bulk deals on unlimited-data contracts, and the staffers make their private calls on their own accounts. Each side gets to install the apps it needs under whatever are your usual terms for BYOD.

It is an unorthodox idea for sure, but it could make BYOD quite a bit more palatable to all concerned. Could you see it working in your organization?

Image credit [cropped]: Cheon Fong Liew (flickr) / CC BY-SA

About the author
Bryan Betts