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For business professionals lucky enough to be given a mobile phone by their employer, often one of the unspoken benefits of having such a device is the ability to make some personal calls that are paid for by the company.

There are varying levels to which one could take advantage (re: abuse) such a privilege. It depends on if  you’re making the odd call home to say you’re leaving the office or having hour-long conversations with those relatives on vacation in Australia. Either way, those personal minutes you’d otherwise have to use up on your personal plan add up to some savings. But with the acquisition of UK-based Movirtu by BlackBerry Ltd. yesterday, those sort of fringe benefits might come to a halt.

BlackBerry announced the deal this morning, saying it was acquiring Movirtu’s technology that creates a virtual SIM on a smartphone so a user can have two different phone numbers on the same device. BlackBerry said it was to address two different models of mobile device management at enterprises today: bring your own device (BYOD) and corporate owned personally enabled (COPE) environments. Because of the virtual SIM, separate billing can be put in place for voice, data, and texting use on the business number and on the personal number. It’s up to the employee to switch back and forth between business and personal profiles. This also allows IT administrators to put in whatever restrictions they choose on the business account without affecting personal usage of a smartphone.

In the BYOD scenario, workers might see the virtual SIM as a benefit. They get to have their personal devices enabled for work and can now do business-related tasks using that separate profile. In the COPE scenario, users get the capability to use their device in their personal lives more freely, but now are obligated to pay for the personal usage with a separate billing plan.

The acquisition complements the BlackBerry Balance feature that separates a device into two virtual storage areas that don’t affect one another. This allows for business apps and data to be securely managed by an IT team, while personal apps and data are still full controlled by the device owner. BlackBerry is no doubt of taking note of other similar offerings such as Samsung’s Knox and looking for ways to improve the way it handles dividing up business and personal usage on a single device.

BlackBerry says the virtual SIM technology won’t be limited to its handsets, but enabled through mobile operators to provide the mulitple identities at the user level. It will be supported on all major smartphone operating systems – meaning Android and iOS too.

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