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Cisco Webex Calling bolsters business calls on private phones

Cisco Webex Calling will soon let customers' employees use their private phones to make business calls securely and in compliance with corporate policies.

Cisco's upcoming Webex Calling update will encourage remote and on-the-go workers to use their business phone numbers to conduct business calls. Industry observers said the new feature will help companies ensure that business calls are secure and comply with corporate policies and regulations.

This week, Cisco introduced Webex Go, which lets employees make and receive business calls from their personal phones without using an app. The company will release Webex Go to Webex Calling customers in the first half of 2022.

The feature lets workers use their phone's native dialer for business calls. Employees will choose from the dialer whether they want to call using their business or personal number. The feature uses a digital SIM card, or eSIM, to allow the phone to make and receive calls from a business line.

WebEx Go works on only an eSIM-compatible phone. Examples include later models of the iPhone, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy.

Cisco said the feature makes calling easier for employees. With Webex Go, employees don't have to share their personal numbers with clients, use an app to conduct a call, or carry a separate business phone.

Competitors like Microsoft Teams Phone and Zoom Phone allow workers to make calls from a business line through their mobile apps. However, employees have been reluctant to use these apps. In a 2020 Metrigy survey, 37% of the 528 companies polled said they had deployed UC apps, but only 5.7% of employees used them to make calls.

"That means that calls aren't being tracked by the enterprise; employees are forced to share their personal mobile phone numbers, and integrations into apps like CRM won't work," Metrigy analyst Irwin Lazar said.

Raul Castanon, an analyst at 451 Research, said the explosion of remote work during the COVID pandemic has forced workers to use personal devices for business several times a day, increasing compliance, security and privacy risks.

"While in the early days of the outbreak, organizations relaxed compliance and security for the sake of business continuity, they will need to revisit and enforce these policies as they adapt to the new hybrid work model," Castanon said.

According to Cisco, Webex Go will let IT record calls when necessary, provide analytics on business phone usage, and incorporate workflows for business calls.

Cisco executive Jeetu Patel said Webex Go will function better than mobile apps in areas where the signal is weak. Webex Go calls use the phone network, while apps depend on data coverage.

"The way that SMS messages and calls get prioritized when you're in a low-bandwidth environment is very different than the way data gets prioritized," he said. "[Webex Go] gets you to the top of the priority stack."

Cisco announced other improvements to Webex Calling this week. When employees use Webex to dial 911, the app will give emergency responders accurate location information. Workers can use Calling on their Webex Desk Pro touchscreen device. Also, the company has extended its Calling service to Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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