Let Your Users Decide Between Using Smartphones or Desk Phones

3 April 2013 ID:G00247689
Analyst(s): Steve Blood, Jay Lassman

VIEW SUMMARY

Preference of smartphones for business and personal use, coupled with mobile clients from unified communications suppliers, enables office users to manage communications with their mobile phones in place of a desk phone. IT leaders must plan for a seamless transition.

Overview

Impacts

  • Availability of unified communications (UC) clients in mobile app stores and licensing changes by vendors make it commercially feasible for IT to offer desk phone displacement in the office.
  • Greater penetration of smartphones for voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN) requires IT planners to make changes to network coverage, configuration and security plans.
  • Wireless voice connectivity supports an IT organization's strategy for mobile office hot desking and hotelling.

Recommendations

  • Understand the true costs of desk phone displacement. Favor suppliers that offer third-party device connections without a license penalty.
  • Include the costs of adding personal devices onto a private wireless network. Ensure users understand the implications of the organization's policy for connecting mobile devices to the network.
  • Encourage employees with company-owned mobile devices to use mobile applications in place of desk phones. Offer wireless voice as an option, not as a policy directive for personally owned devices.

Analysis

Desk phones are synonymous with the office telephone system, yet many employees prefer to use a mobile phone for managing office and personal communications. Studies show that, increasingly, the landline in the home is being substituted with wireless communications.1 It is reasonable to expect this trend will work its way into the office environment.

IT organizations struggle with managing mobile call costs as employees make and receive calls on their company-supplied mobile phones while seated at their desks and alongside a desk phone. Desk phones provide significantly lower rates than mobile phones for making and receiving calls.

However, adding mobile phones to a wireless LAN (WLAN) is not free of charge. For organizations to take advantage of cost benefits, they must address a number of issues, including:

  • UC license
  • WLAN coverage and connectivity
  • Policies for connecting personal and company-owned mobile phones to the network

While IT policy should encourage employees with company-provided mobile devices to replace their desk phones, employees with personal devices may not necessarily want to. For an effective transition, telecom managers could let employees choose how they want to connect to the network — i.e., by smartphone or desk phone.

A successful enterprise project to displace desk phones will address all the issues just mentioned. We appraise the key impacts of desk phone displacement and offer recommendations on how to proceed with such a project (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Impacts and Top Recommendations for Smartphones Versus Desk Phones
Figure 1.Impacts and Top Recommendations for Smartphones Versus Desk Phones

Source: Gartner (April 2013)

Impacts and Recommendations

Availability of UC clients in mobile app stores and licensing changes by vendors make it commercially feasible for IT to offer desk phone displacement in the office

Most UC suppliers have offered IT organizations the option to register a mobile phone with the enterprise IP-PBX over the cellular network and use it in the same way as a desk phone. Some organizations even have the ability to switch automatically between in-building WLAN and the cellular network, which, while useful, has been expensive to deploy and therefore received minimal acceptance. Mobile phone use was always presented and charged as an addition to the desk phone, not a replacement for it.

The opportunity to register the smartphone with the IP-PBX over the in-building WLAN as an alternative to a desk phone is a recent development. It enables IT leaders to offer employees the freedom of using the mobile phone in the office, while taking advantage of landline rates in place of much higher cellular costs.

Desk phone displacement is more feasible with optional licensing and software bundling by UC vendors. Organizations should offer this option to users of company-supplied mobile smartphones, and consider extending it to office employees with personally owned smartphones.

We present a selection of leading providers of mobile UC clients that support VoWLAN and the availability in respective app stores (see Table 1). For a longer list of technology providers' UC solutions that offer some form of mobility, see "Critical Capabilities for Unified Communications."

Table 1. Mobile UC Clients That Support VoWLAN

Vendor Mobile Application

iOS 6.1

Android 4.1.2

Windows 8

Cisco Jabber

X

X

Siemens Enterprise Communications

OpenScape Mobile

X

X

Microsoft Lync 2013

X

X

X

Source: Gartner (April 2013)

Vendors have different approaches to licensing mobile UC clients. They are free to download in the app store, but enablement requires a subscription to a specific license or software bundle. Bundling software in UC has been a useful way to introduce new features for less cost than previous itemized price lists, but it is still important to evaluate the user requirements and to match these as closely as possible to the license or software bundles. This is important for IT planners who are pursuing a multivendor approach for UC, where software bundles may overlap and organizations can pay double for the same functionality (see "Single-Vendor or Multivendor UCC: Which Approach Is Best for You?")

The mobile client is unlikely to be the only device used for voice communications. UC is also populating PC devices and tablets. For some users, multidevice connectivity will be an essential requirement to communicate internally and externally to the enterprise. It can be equally important for traveling workers, because the mobile UC client is usable in public cellular networks, as well as across the office WLAN. These are important considerations when building a road map for UC. Even in a multidevice environment, the opportunity to displace the desk phone is as important to office users with the most basic needs as for knowledge workers with complex needs.

Recommendation:

  • Understand the true costs of desk phone displacement. Favor suppliers that offer third-party device connections without a license penalty.

Greater penetration of smartphones for VoWLAN requires IT planners to make changes to network coverage, configuration and security

Office mobile voice solutions using WLAN are established practices, and many organizations with campus roamers have, to date, deployed dedicated terminals from IP-PBX providers such as Cisco and Avaya, or independents such as Spectralink. These are generally limited to telephony and some messaging capabilities. They are also an additional cost when employees are carrying significantly more powerful smartphones that support many more applications, and, therefore, should be the primary consideration for wireless voice connectivity in the office network.

A greater penetration of smartphones using WLAN means that IT planners will be required to review current wireless network topology, coverage and capacities (see "Use a Device Connectivity Policy to Achieve Proper WLAN Performance Levels").

There are three key reasons why employees must use a private company WLAN for phone connectivity when in the office:

  • Using a company-supplied phone number ensures better communications management, security and compliance for inbound and outbound calls. It's also a number that employees can't take with them when they leave the organization.
  • For voice traffic, the public cellular network is generally more expensive when making and receiving calls. This is especially true for calling party pays (CPP) configurations (i.e., where the organization pays a premium for the fixed-to-mobile call cost).
  • In some modern building construction, there is no cellular signal inside the office. The WLAN will provide a consistently better signal than a cellular approach, ensuring continuity of service.

To meet the same level of mobility in the office that employees are accustomed to when using cellular phones, it may be necessary to upgrade WLAN coverage across the office or campus (see "Best Practices for WLAN Site Surveys That Save Money"). For example, a WLAN access point is likely to cost around $500 and will typically serve 15 users, at $33 per user. This compares favorably with the cost of an IP desk phone at $150 (with comparable functionality to the smartphone application). An alternative, less-expensive option is to mandate that employees can only have mobility in the vicinity of their desks, not across the organization's wireless network.

Connecting company-owned smartphones directly to the production WLAN is likely to follow corporate policies and procedures for laptops and other company-supplied wireless devices (see "Toolkit: Enterprise-Owned Mobile Device Policy Template"). The option to extend this capability to users with personally owned smartphones likely will require a different policy (see "Toolkit: BYOD Mobile Device Policy Template") and perhaps even a connection to a separate network (see "Getting Your Network Ready for BYOD" and "Securing BYOD With Network Access Control, a Case Study").

Recommendation:

  • Include the costs of adding personal devices onto a private wireless network. Ensure users understand the implications of the organization's policy for connecting mobile devices to the network.

Wireless voice connectivity supports an IT organization's strategy for mobile office hot desking and hotelling

With an increasing number of employee devices requiring connection to the company network, it's becoming more expensive and less feasible to continue to rely on RJ45 wired connections (see "Develop a Framework for Deploying an All-Wireless Office"). IT planners should consider users' voice requirements as a wireless capability, relying on wired connections for Internet Protocol (IP) desk phones.

Employees with company-supplied smartphones should be the first targets for desk phone displacement. If initial proposals are not enthusiastically received, then review call detail records for the desk phone. For example, when outbound calls from a user's desk phone drop below a predefined threshold, policy would mandate replacing the desk phone with the mobile application.

Employees with personal devices should be offered a choice. They can either elect to have a desk phone or give it up in favor of the smartphone application. Employees must understand that in doing so, their smartphones would be subject to the organization's bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Initial resistance to this policy is likely to be overshadowed by the convenience of mobility in the office.

Working with the facilities department to engineer a free seating (hotelling) office environment project, there may well be a budget for IT to help migrate employees to smartphone technologies and office mobility. For example, in "Transform the Workplace With Focus on Bricks, Behaviors and Bits," Rabobank in the Netherlands was able to execute on its free seating, new office environment by leveraging an all-wireless office and mobile devices for connectivity. The project was successful because the company allowed employees to take advantage of the new way of working, rather than mandate a change.

Recommendation:

  • Encourage employees with company-owned mobile devices to use mobile applications in place of desk phones. Offer wireless voice as an option, not as a policy directive for personally owned devices.

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Evidence

1 There is increasing evidence of wireless substitution of landline capabilities in the home, which sets a precedent for employees in the office. Users increasingly prefer to use mobile phones over desk phones (see results from a National Health Interview Survey).