Company mobiles in decline?

The proportion of small and medium-sized businesses with mobile phones has fallen, possibly thanks to the rise of home working, while business broadband connections are soaring

Mobile penetration in the small-business market is falling, according to Ofcom's annual report into the communications market.

Sixty-four percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had at least one mobile phone in 2001 — now, the figure now stands at 55 percent.

The reason for this decline is that "a lot of businesses are relying on personal contracts for their employees" and then reimbursing them for business calls rather than getting them dedicated business contracts, according to John Lewis, Ofcom's head of telecoms market intelligence.

The trend, which coincides with the rise of home working, fits in with the approach taken by operators such as Orange, which offers a system whereby employers can include employees' home broadband connections in their overall business package.

The same report also showed that small firms, and especially medium-sized ones, are "generally far more likely to switch telecoms supplier than residential consumers". Business fixed-line costs have dropped too, in step with line rental charges, and fixed-line call volumes in the SME sector have also decreased.

Broadband uptake in the SME sector has been increasing rapidly, from just 10 percent of the market in 2002 to 73 percent last year, a rise which Ofcom suggests could be responsible for increasing satisfaction among SMEs with their Internet connections — up from 28 percent to 45 percent in just one year.

"This may reflect the increase in perceived value of broadband versus dial-up," said the report. In 2005, 16 percent of SMEs were still using dial-up to connect to the Internet.

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