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January 13, 2009

What's Next for Small Business Segment?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

For the most part, providers of communication services to small business customers now offer a rather standard mix of broadband access and voice services. These solutions are built around access ranging from digital subscriber line or cable modem service through T1s and increasingly, trunks designed around Sessioin Initiation Protocol. Hosted business phone service increasingly is a staple as well.
So what's next? Mobility integration, for at least some providers, looks to be the next wave of services.  Researchers at Research & Markets now estimate that small business spending on wireless services is projected to exceed spending on wireline services by 2010. So to the extent that traditional providers of communications want to compete for the whole wallet, mobility must be part of the offer.
"The next big thing is mobility and voice mobility combined with fixed," says Bruce Chatterley, Speakeasy president and CEO. "We are working on a whole variety of things, including VoIP on an iPhone (News - Alert), for example, that mimics the desktop phone."
The idea is to giver users the same major features on the iPhone as they would have access to on their desk phones' four-digit dialing and Outlook access, for example. Speakeasy (News - Alert) also sees mobile broadband as a key offering, again to extend the desktop into the mobile realm.
"Businesses will be reluctant to go mobile-only, but it adds convenience," Chatterley argues. "We will start with 3G and 4G connections, then add VoIP and then mobile voice.
The focus on mobile data seems apt. Mobile data spending is growing much faster than the spending for wireless voice services, says Research & Markets. Wireless voice growth is in single digits, with a six percent cumulative average growth rate, while mobile data is almost five times that, with a 27 percent CAGR.
Cbeyond, for example, now has mobile services penetration of about 31 percent of its customer base, including support for smart phones, BlackBerry (News - Alert) devices and 3G data cards.
Other service providers see more upside in hosted business voice and managed services such as security, though.
Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users. Today’s featured white paper is Fixed Service Strategies for Mobile Network Operators, brought to you by Comverse.

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart

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