Why feature phones remain relevant and essential tools for MNOs – they enable universal services

There’s a perception that smartphones are necessary to access valuable business tools, such as mobile PBX applications. That’s simply not true – with the right solution, such as Gintel’s Easy Virtual PBX, the same service can be delivered universally to feature phones, smartphones and desk phones. And, this approach can also unlock new markets with lower smartphone penetration.

In many countries, smartphone adoption has all but reached a peak. They have become seemingly indispensable tools for both business and personal customers. But this success is somewhat misleading. There is a perception that advanced services, such as mobile PBX for B2B customers, can only be accessed via smartphones. This simply isn’t true.

What’s more, not every business offers smartphones to its employees. Indeed, there are strong reasons why many should not. Furthermore, there are also many countries in which smartphone adoption remains low – at MWC19, we met one MNO CTO who told us that their network has 23% smartphone penetration, to give just one example.

Of course, smartphones are wonderful, but they are expensive, and they are also not appropriate for every task. Let’s consider some simple cases that we have experienced. In a logistics facility, staff need to be connected. They move around the buildings constantly, supervising and executing tasks, and are not tied to a desk. They need to be part of the corporate communications network and reachable at all times. Similarly, people working in a hospital may also be mobile and also need to be part of the communications infrastructure, but do not need to be anchored to a desk device. Indeed, being so would limit their ability to fulfil their role.

In neither case is a smartphone necessary – indeed, it would be extremely expensive to equip, for example, the thousands of people who work in such locations with smartphones. Similarly, neither is a desk phone the answer – when staff move around their premises so much, having a device that they cannot answer is no help. And, nor is simply diverting calls to a mobile or forcing over-use of voicemail a solution. Call diversion delivers a call, but it excludes any form of interaction with other features that are available on the network.

What’s actually needed is a communications solution that works effectively for any device with the same features available to all, so that featurephone users can be connected seamlessly, just as smartphone users or those with desk phones can access the same services.

Such a solution requires deep integration with the mobile network, across different generations of technology, which is what we’ve been doing for years. Our virtual and mobile PBX solution ensures that the same features are available to any user, regardless of device. Of course, the interface changes from device to device, but all users can customise settings, change status, be part of the hunt and call groups and so on. This means that the same service can be offered to a business with a mixed fleet, for example, of feature phones, smartphones and desk phones.

The same approach also ensures that MNOs in countries with lower smartphone adoption rates can also offer enhanced services to all of their business customers, including those with feature phones and other, simpler (and cheaper) devices. With no smartphone dependency, a universal service can be delivered.

This is often forgotten by MNOs who plan B2B services. Indeed, many vendors simply assume that a smartphone will be offered, as they only focus on applications that are delivered to different devices. MNOs need to remember that feature phones have an important role to play, not just in developing markets, but also in key sectors for which mass deployment of smartphones is neither practical nor affordable.

Focusing on smartphones to the exclusion of other varieties misses a key point. To reach the widest audience, MNOs need to be sure that key services they offer, such as mobile PBX or UC can be delivered to any device, without prescription. This enables any customer or business to adopt the service, without having to change device. Indeed, it allows them to offer a mobile first approach that is truly universal, even while enabling connectivity to legacy devices, such as desk phones.

So, if you want to offer a universal service, then you need to do more than think about smartphones and their applications. To do more, you need solutions like those offered by Gintel, which provide universal access. Find out by talking to our team.

Virtual PBX, Mobile PBX, MNO, B2B, Featurephones, MWC19, smartphones

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