BYOD to force mobile operators into services

O2’s former European president claims mobile operators will lose enterprise contracts if they don’t focus on services

Employees bringing their own mobile devices to work are threatening profitable enterprise contracts for mobile operators.

The mobile operators must act now to tackle the issue, according to Keith Cornell, head of southern Europe for Vodafone and former president of Europe for O2.

Speaking to Computer Weekly during the 2013 Mobile World Congress, Cornell said the bring your own device (BYOD) trend had arrived and needed to be looked at internally to begin with.

“There is a big shift in the market, with employees saying, 'I have just joined and I want to bring in my devices – and that’s plural, not just one. Don’t tell me I have to move onto one of your devices. Don’t tell me I have to change the number I have had for 15 years.' This is an issue at enterprise level when non-corporate devices access the corporate network,” said Cornell.

But rather than being a problem only for IT managers, he claimed the wider mobile industry, especially operators, needed to think of new strategies to tackle the changes BYOD will bring. If employees are bringing their own mobiles and tablets to work, what will happen to the large corporate contracts to provide devices that are very profitable for the provider?

Mobile operators have to become services specialists – think about storage, security, quality of service

Keith Cornell, Vodafone

“The question is not just about how long it will take for CIOs to face up to it, or how they will have to be better and more flexible – it is about the operators too,” Cornell added. “Operators will attempt to create key accounts, but because of BYOD they will lose accounts worth a lot of money to them.”

The best route will be to come up with a services portfolio, he said, giving enterprise customers the extras they cannot trust an employee using their personal device to provide.

“Mobile operators are going to have to turn themselves into services specialists – think about storage, security, quality of service, etc,” said Cornell. “These are the things they will have to provide [to differentiate themselves]. They will have to be networks in the old sense of the word.”

A recent survey by Computer Weekly and cloud provider EVault showed 96% of companies had at least some employees using their personal devices for corporate purposes. However, a significant number of IT directors (68%) said retention, protection, security and deletion were all major concerns, while 61% were worried that access to corporate data may compromise legal compliance.

Image: Jupiter Images/Thinkstock

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