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UC vendors extend mobile telephony capabilities

UC providers like Cisco and Microsoft are expanding mobile voice services in their platforms, enabling employees to use native dialing and more advanced mobile features.

Extending unified communications to mobile users has been a long-time challenge for IT and business leaders. Today, all UC platforms provide a mobile app to support features such as calling, messaging and meetings. But, despite widespread availability, most people still resort to using their mobile phone's native dialer to make and receive work-related calls.

For the business, this means that call records aren't integrated with CRM apps or tracked for compliance purposes and that employees often share their personal cellphone number, in addition to their company-provided phone number. And, in most cases, calls made through mobile UC apps rely on data channels that may not provide the reliability of mobile voice connections.

Several UC providers, including Cisco and Microsoft, have started to address this issue by delivering mobile offerings that enable users to continue to use native dialing but with apps provisioned and managed by IT. These mobile telephony services join other offerings from mobile providers. Here's a look at the new services, where they make sense for the business and what limitations they still have.

Cisco Webex Go

Announced in 2021, Webex Go enables companies to provision a second line to mobile phones, giving the phone a dual identity as a personal device and a business device. When making a call, users can select if they want that call to be handled as a personal call or as a Webex call. Webex Go supports BYOD and company-provisioned devices.

Webex Go also supports common phone features, including extension dialing, transferring calls between devices and escalation of calls from audio to video. Webex Go is currently available to U.S. and U.K. Webex customers who have unlocked embedded SIM-compatible mobile phones and is available through Webex partners.

Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile

Introduced in early 2022 as Microsoft Operator Connect Mobile and later renamed, Teams Phone Mobile enables companies to provision a mobile phone -- Android or iOS -- that functions as a Teams Phone endpoint. In this approach, the phone and phone number are provisioned by IT through a Microsoft carrier partner. Received calls ring across Teams endpoints, including the desktop app, desk phone or Teams Phone Mobile device.

Users can change voice calls to video calls and enable screen sharing. Teams Phone Mobile is included in Teams Phone licenses, with an additional charge for the mobile device and mobile line.

Initially, Teams Phone Mobile devices are single identity, meaning they only support calling through Teams. There is no option for a dual-SIM approach that enables employees to use the same phone for personal and business calling. Initial carrier partners for Teams Phone Mobile include Rogers Business in Canada; BT, Telia Company and Swisscom in Europe; and T-Mobile and Verizon in the U.S.

Additional mobile telephony options

A number of other providers offer services that either integrate mobile and desktop calling or enable companies to only use a mobile device for business calling. These include Verizon One Talk and AT&T Office@Hand, as well as RingCentral's mobile integration with AT&T Office@Hand. Both services support dual SIM to enable personal and business numbers on a dual SIM-capable device.

All UC vendors provide mobile apps that customers can use to place and receive calls on their mobile devices. Most providers support some level of native dialer integration through Apple CallKit or Android APIs, though not to the extent of the SIM-based offerings from Microsoft and Cisco. Over time, we expect to see additional UC providers deliver native calling options similar to Teams Phone Mobile and Webex Go.

Buying considerations

Due to the limited nature of native mobile integration, buyers must first evaluate what is available from their UC provider. For those considering Teams Phone Mobile, they must understand it requires company-provisioned mobile devices and does not support BYOD. Additionally, companies should evaluate calling patterns and need to understand the potential value of delivering truly integrated mobile calling.

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