Mobile Communication Device Policy


The University is committed to providing essential, business-related tools for faculty and staff in a manner that promotes the proper stewardship of assets and establishes a framework for consistent decision-making. Recognizing that properly used personal communication devices facilitate University business, the University must manage the risks and administrative burden associated with such use, including its ongoing approval. Since a justifiable University business use for cell phone (“voice”) use versus PDA (“data”) use will vary across business units and by individual, the decision to incur such business expenses must be evaluated from a cost/benefit perspective for the University, and individual units across Duke should consider other viable options such as landline phones, pagers or other less expensive communication devices. POLICY: Duke University accommodates faculty and staff who need mobile communication devices1 for business purposes.  A University business purpose for having a mobile device is one where the employee routinely: 

  • initiates or receives communications in an emergency situation at Duke or,
  • must be “on call” 24x7x365 to support mission critical services or,
  • is highly mobile (away from the office 50% or more of the time) and requires voice or data communication continuously during the work schedule or,
  • must travel extensively and/or work from a remote location

Duke funds should only be used for the purchase of a mobile communication device for a faculty or staff member in cases where a suitable device is not included in the service plan, and where the use of the device is deemed essential to the business use. Such acquisitions should be authorized no more frequently than once every three years. Service plans funded by Duke (including faculty discretionary accounts and sponsored funds) are generally limited to one plan per faculty or staff member absent approval by the Provost, Executive Vice President, or Dean of the School of Medicine.

Departments may select one of two options to support individual mobile devices. 

  1. Purchase a cellphone and service using the Duke OIT plan
  2. Issue a monthly Mobile Device Stipend and/or cover the cost of a new device as a supplemental payment

Note: Reimbursements for personal mobile device plans will be discontinued as of October, 2018.   

1. Mobile devices are devices with mobile access plans for connection, such as cell phones, Androids, iPhones, and similar devices, as well as iPads and other tablet devices. 

The following are procedural guidelines related to the Mobile Communications Device Policy. These guidelines are subject to change over time as products, vendor pricing and circumstances warrant. This document will be maintained on the website of Financial Services, and the community will be notified of updates via departmental business managers.

Duke OIT Option

If the Duke OIT plan is the preferred option, staff and faculty authorized to use a Duke-funded mobile device (a.) may select the appropriate service plan from among Duke’s preferred-provider contracts (current list maintained on the mobile phones service page); (b.) should select the most basic device that meets the authorized business use, and (c.) must communicate the mobile device telephone number within the business unit and beyond, as appropriate, to the required University business use. No organization in the University should extend existing mobile contracts or enter into new contracts with mobile phone companies on behalf of Duke except the University’s Office of Information Technology (OIT).

Mobile Device Stipend Option

If the Mobile Device Stipend option is preferred, the related department would designate an appropriate stipend amount for all eligible employees, and process the stipend amount as a recurring payment using the Supplement iForm. Such payments are taxable income to the individual per IRS regulations, but recommended stipend amounts are designed to accommodate the related financial impact. The individual employee would engage his/her service provider directly and would be responsible for all payments to the provider. Some recommended monthly stipend amounts are included below. Please note that these amounts are intended to be guidelines only. The departments/divisions can designate the monthly stipend amounts based upon the needs of the department. Also, the department can change the monthly amount based upon specific arrangements.

If the department elects to pay for the employee’s phone under the Mobile Device Stipend Option, the payment must be processed to the individual as a supplemental payment. The individual would pay the applicable vendor for the device. Payments for mobile devices should be authorized no more frequently than once every three years. Approvals for this process along with the monthly stipend levels are required by individual management centers

Guidelines for Stipend Levels (under the Mobile Device Stipend Option)

Domestic Coverage: $15 -$45/month (Basic voice & data plan) $45-$90/month (Basic voice plus either internet access or Broadband/Hotspot)

International Coverage for Extended Periods of Travel: $90-$120/month/user/cap (Basic voice plus internet access and Broadband/Hotspot)

Process and Procedural Guidelines: Mobile Device Policy 


Individual departments and schools are accountable for their prudent use of University resources consistent with University policies and business practices. Each unit should establish and operate with suitable policies for mobile communication devices1 that reflect its needs and values, consistent with the principles articulated herein.

The supervisor will choose the most appropriate service plan or stipend option, in collaboration with the employee and with the approval of the unit chair, director, or designee. The plan or stipend option chosen, including any associated insurance coverage, should be the least expensive that provides adequate business-related services.

The responsible Dean, Vice Provost, or Vice President must approve mobile device service plans or stipends on an annual basis for staff members who use these services, in consultation with the unit’s business manager and with the concurrence of the appropriate Senior Officer. The approval process must be documented, and is subject to review by the related management center.

Any changes in authorization must be documented and attached to the original approval documentation. Under the OIT Plan, the department must monitor the faculty or staff member usage of the device to ensure consistency with the approved University business need.

Organizations must annually review their documentation to ensure that a business purpose continues to exist and that University funding of the mobile plan or stipend is still appropriate in order to accomplish the job. Termination of the OIT mobile device and the return of the device is required if the business purpose no longer exists, including when a staff member transfers into a new position or unit where business use may not be authorized.


The standard payment method for the OIT Plan is via direct billing to the Duke-issued Corporate card and is subject to the routine monthly review and approval of expenses by supervisors. Proper documentation must be included with the expense report.


For devices that have been approved under the Mobile Device program, OIT will provide support for certain mobile device connectivity for requisite institutional services (i.e., setup assistance to establish secure connections to DukeMail, technical troubleshooting, etc.). Refer to the mobile phones service page.


The following exclusions or special provisions apply:

Shared Mobile Devices and Pagers

Some service organizations have multiple staff sharing a single mobile device or utilize pagers or two-way radios for on-call rotations, service dispatch, etc. Pagers and two-way radios, and in certain cases a limited number of shared or group mobile devices, will remain available via University contracts, and subject to written authorization from the Departmental Business Managers. Minimal personal use is to be made of these devices.

Mobile Broadband Cards or AirCards

Some organizations utilize “AirCards” that provide cellular- based Internet service to laptops for the purpose of maintaining Internet access for University business while travelling. In certain cases a limited number of shared AirCard devices and service plans will remain available via University contracts, negotiated by OIT and subject to written authorization from the Departmental Business Managers. Minimal personal use is to be made of these devices.

Research Uses; Contracts or Grants Accounts

Purchases of plans and devices that will be used strictly to support an organized research project are subject to certain special provisions, as detailed below.

On federal or federal pass through grants and contracts, only shared or group devices will be allowed and only when use of the mobile device is fully devoted to the project, necessary for the project, and included in the approved budget. In cases where it is not in the approved budget, the expense will not be allowable. The bona-fide business purpose documentation must be approved annually by the University’s Office of Sponsored Programs in order for the expenses to be allocable to a grant or contract.

On non-federal or non-federal pass through grants and contracts, mobile communication costs will be considered an allocable expense only if use of the mobile device is fully devoted to the project, necessary for the project, and included in the approved budget. In cases where it is not in the approved budget, the expense will not be allowable unless approved by the University’s Office of Sponsored Programs. The business purpose documentation must be approved annually by the Office of Sponsored Programs in order for the expenses to be allocable to a grant or contract.

For research uses not covered under grants or contracts, faculty may elect to use discretionary accounts, or may request authorization for University business use from the responsible Dean, subject to approval by the Provost. 


Business managers within each school, department, and/or administrative unit should partner with OIT and Duke’s preferred mobile communications partners to implement any changes if department elects to transition to the use of the Mobile Device Stipend. Effective September 1, 2018, only mobile device stipends and plans approved under this policy and paid for via direct Corporate Card charging will be funded by Duke (note: a reasonable transition period may be provided for certain plans currently covered by Duke under an alternate model). Reimbursements for individual mobile communication devices and services must be discontinued effective September 1, 2018.

Current faculty members and staff interested in participating in the mobile communication program should contact the administrative leader (typically a business manager) to discuss relevant options. The administrative leader will be the liaison with OIT regarding the transition process, which will be handled on a unit-by-unit basis. If the University previously paid for a mobile device but no longer authorizes such use, the University may transfer ownership of that device to the faculty or staff member. If the current market value of the device is greater than $500, the faculty or staff member reimburses the University for the excess over $500 or it is deducted from their pay.


Financial Services

Issued Date

October 1, 2011

Last Revised

September 1, 2018