Mobile Phone Is the Hub of SMB Communications

RadioFrame Networks (RFN) has released new, independent market research into how the SMB (small medium business) is using mobile communications and further strengthens the business case for indoor base stations, namely picocells and femtocells. The research was conducted by Quocirca, a European business and technology analyst firms, across 240 SMBs in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden.

The research reveals that:
More than a third of SMBs have problems using their mobile phones at work, and even more so when working from home, yet for many, the mobile phone is their first preference when making a call, even when at a desk with a fixed phone (in many smaller organizations, workers may not even have a fixed phone).
3G is on its way, but not quite here over half of all respondents have no plans to implement 3G phones, but 17% plan to introduce 3G laptops in the coming year, adding to the third that have already done so.

The problem is not going to go away by itself. "The research shows that while interest in new kinds of mobile services is high, good quality voice services and at the right price is what really matters to SMBs today. And with employees increasingly using their mobile devices for a widening range of applications data, video, even VoIP the reliability and service quality of mobile communications is going to become increasingly important, particularly with deployment of 3G services, which can find it hard to penetrate buildings", says Mark Keenan, General Manager Europe, Middle East and Africa, RadioFrame Networks, "So any operator who overcomes this will be in a strong market position. Deployment of indoor base station technology namely picocells and femtocells - is increasingly being viewed as a means to achieve this. Other market research suggests that worldwide, there will over 100 million femtocell users by 2012."

SMBs keen on cost reduction via mobile broadband and bundled services The research also showed strong interest in using mobile broadband connectivity to reduce mobile call costs. Continues Mark Keenan, "We know that call costs continue to be an issue for SMBs and again, there is a real opportunity here for operators to use femtocell technology to start rolling out more reliable, cost-effective mobile services, including data communications. Fixed mobile convergence and unified communications are ways in which operators can achieve this, for example by providing bundled services. Again, femtocell technology is a route to making this possible."

Femtocells and picocells are small wireless access base stations that are located indoors (for example, within an office or a home). From a network capacity perspective, RadioFrame views femtocells as the solution for home users, and picocells for business users. Indoor wireless access base stations are basically a very scaled down version of the large cellular base stations that are currently deployed by network operators. They are simple to install and only require an existing broadband connection (for backhaul to the network this is because they communicate directly with the mobile phone and carry the signal to the larger network via a broadband connection such as DSL or cable modems).

Says Rob Bamforth, the report's primary author and Principal Analyst, Communication, Collaboration and Convergence at Quocirca, "The mobile phone has become the hub of business communications activity, and vital link for the SMB workforce. Contacts numbers and address books in the handset mean that it is very often the default instrument for making calls, in or out of the workplace. New communication tools such as mobile email and browser access mean that mobile phone users are increasingly dependent on their phones, so coverage is an expectation and the lack of it, a frustration which can impact productivity."

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