Carriers can profit from BYOD

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon, where consumer devices are being used for enterprise purposes, is currently a top-of-mind topic in enterprise mobility.
And no wonder because it’s simply more productive for the worker.
But for enterprises, BYOD presents several challenges, most especially about security. Mobile malware incidents are at their highest point since 2009, according to McAfee. New malware leaped from 70,000 instances in 2009 to almost 90,000 so far this year.
Other obstacles in implementing a rational BYOD plan include managing policies for what usage is billed to the business and what is billed to the consumer. Often, employees are told to purchase their own device, and to expense their work usage, but only up to a certain acceptable threshold.
Alternatively, businesses might give an employee a phone that can also be used for consumer applications. Companies are direct-billed for that phone from the service provider, so they often set an arbitrary percentage to charge back to the employee. It’s a back-office level of complexity that many chief financial officers would prefer not to deal with, but find themselves increasingly hampered by.
Mobile device management (MDM) presents another challenge. For BYOD to work, an MDM app, which varies according to service provider and device, must be installed on the phone. In a large enterprise, the IT department may find itself juggling 30 different MDM solutions, which is a nightmare on its own. For an IT department doing a cost-benefit analysis, it may find that it is spending more to support BYOD than any savings that the strategy may provide in subscription plan savings or productivity.
The service provider with the right offering that takes into account the challenges outlined above is in a perfect position to carve out a new revenue opportunity through managed service subscriptions, roaming revenue and double-dipping on device subsidies.
Carrier options
To implement such a revenue-generating service, the service provider must also take into account that a company likely has contracts with multiple providers. A carrier can overcome this by incentivizing employees to switch with an offer of special benefits, like direct-billed corporate usage. Otherwise, that same service provider can offer an agnostic MDM component that delivers a report on business usage, so employees are reimbursed based on actual activity rather than an arbitrary percentage.
A second option to facilitate BYOD uptake is for service providers to forge a roaming-like agreement to identify and bill out for traffic according to the device being used. An MDM app on the device can alert an app server sitting in Carrier A’s BYOD management environment that the device is generating traffic on Carrier B’s network. The BYOD provider, Carrier A, logs that usage to charge the enterprise itself, but then pays the usage on a wholesale basis to Carrier B according to an inter-carrier agreement.
The heavy lifting is handled by the carrier charging software and element management systems, so the IT department’s level of complexity is drastically reduced. The corporation uses one application to cover all devices, not varying levels of service plans and individual carrier contracts.
Service providers can also play a critical role when it comes to the consumer issue of keeping contacts and e-mail straight and synched with work applications on enterprise servers. They can work with MDM vendors to create a common interface layer needed to tap into various corporate apps. APIs in the Android and Windows environments can help make this reality.
For wireless carriers, there is a big upside. For one, every contract phone they sell is a liability. They often subsidize the devices to sweeten the pot for consumers and businesses, and look to make up the deficit through subscription costs and ancillary services. That’s why contracts and early termination fees are part of the package.
In a BYOD scenario, operators can take the subsidy hit only once - they either sell to the consumer or sell to the business. However, they can create a billing profile and a managed service offering that offers a family plan with unlimited minutes and 2-GB of data for the consumer side, and can also charge the company for corporate use, which may involve another 2-GB data plan and an MDM strategy. Now, the operator is simplifying the billing and the uncertainty for both BYOD parties, but is also making twice the money out of the same device.
The technology is there to implement these strategies, so the real obstacle lies primarily in the need for ecosystem members to work together to solidify business arrangements. To make this reality, the savvy operator will work with rivals to engender a double-sided BYOD approach that will pay off in real revenue and customer support for everyone involved.
Sanjay Mewada is VP of strategy at NetCracker Technology.