& cplSiteName &

Time to Get Smart About SMB Services

Ray Le Maistre
7/14/2014
50%
50%

A report published today highlights how small businesses -- in this instance, in the UK -- feel they are being short-changed in the broadband economy, either because they are not being offered decent connectivity, or they're being offered services that, when available, are often too expensive. (See Small UK Firms Left Stranded by ISPs – Report.)

The report was mostly negative about the services on offer, the pricing, the attitude of ISPs, the state of Government financial support, and so on. And that's not so surprising, given that the report was published by the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB), with all its vested interests.

But the FSB, in its detailed, 52-page report does make a decent case in many respects, especially when it comes to the dire way in which the UK government has handled broadband initiatives and funding: The UK government pays a lot of lip service to the digital economy, but often (as is the case with many governments and political parties) fails to show any true understanding of how global economic operations need to be supported or what the real needs of businesses and individuals are in the modern world.

But while some things are unlikely to change -- politicians will no doubt continue to be largely clueless about anything that doesn't directly affect them -- the capabilities of communications service providers have changed. For as long as I can recall, small businesses have felt they are not catered for by fixed and mobile operators and the local communications specialists that sell them services packages. Often that was because of the technical and operational limitations of the service providers, restricted to costly fiber rollouts and/or low-bandwidth wireless delivery platforms for the delivery of uninspiring and restrictive services packages.

But times have changed, haven't they? Fixed and wireless broadband (4G LTE, WiFi and even satellite) services are now more pervasive, the ability to sweat the installed copper tails of the fixed-line networks is now greatly enhanced by VDSL2 and new emerging standards such as G.fast, and there are many business-oriented applications that can be enabled across a vanilla broadband connection, while tiered packages of unified communications and cloud services are now more easily provisioned for all types of customers, including even the smallest of businesses. Right? RIGHT?!

In the UK, the small business market has long been the preserve of national operator BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA): The arrival of 4G and the increasing availability of mobile-enabled data services provides a much greater opportunity for the mobile operators to launch a real challenge to the incumbent, and certainly EE , Telefónica UK Ltd. (O2), and Vodafone UK have all been making moves targeting the SMB sector lately.

The FSB report suggests that such moves will take time to make any impact, if they move the needle at all -- this isn't the first time that service providers have boasted of new, resource-heavy assaults on the SMB market. But there is still real market potential: Delivering a decent broadband connection to a remote, rural business is undoubtedly going to be a real challenge for any service provider for a long time to come, but it seems there are plenty of small businesses in urban and semi-urban areas (according to the FSB report) that are still underserved, and that's where much of the 4G LTE rollouts are focused.

In addition, the emergence of 4G is coinciding with the interest in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the potential for urban authorities to enhance their business communities by launching 'smart city' initiatives, which need broadband infrastructure as the underpinning infrastructure.

In a services industry that is constantly searching for new revenue streams, one of the oldest and potentially largest markets -- delivering tiered communications services to small and medium-sized businesses -- still looks ripe for the picking. The FSB report is all about the UK market, but this just highlights the potential that exists in many developed markets, all of which show the same trends of pressurized incumbents, enhanced, mobile broadband, growing cloud service availability, and a disgruntled business customer base.

It's time for the communications service providers to get smart too and make big money from the small business market.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2014 | 1:29:28 PM
Re: Time to Get Smart About SMB Services
@calbert234, interesting points.  My comment is focused on the "partnership" that can advance connectivity (wired or wireless) through public/private collaboration, making a universal access available that can assist SMB.  If you had that infrastructure in place then private preferences (i.e., fast wired connections) can be built to serve those needs, without having to separately invest in the infrastructure costs.

Obviously, you are holding out for the best for Nigeria - that is great!

 
calbert234
50%
50%
calbert234,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/28/2014 | 11:47:37 AM
Re: Time to Get Smart About SMB Services
I do not agree that mobile broadband can be a substitute for wired broadband access. The trend in both cases are very different. In the mobile world, increase in data speed, results in increase in the cost of the services while in the wired access, increase in speed often result in decrease in cost of services. In my country Nigeria, alot of people are of the opinion that mobile is a substitute for wired access and I always argue it out. Till we achieve wired broadband, I will keep up with my expensive and unreliable internet dongle. 
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/15/2014 | 3:45:05 PM
Re: Time to Get Smart About SMB Services
@FakeMitchWagner, exactly.  We need new and better models of public/private partnerships.  Local government, in particular, can play a positive role in partnering with industry, who better understands technology.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/15/2014 | 2:56:59 PM
Re: Time to Get Smart About SMB Services

Government not understanding technology is a problem on both sides of the Atlantic. One school of thought says, well, get government out of technology and business! But that's no answer at all. Because so much of the technology industry is a natural monopoly, government needs to be active. And it needs to be smart about 

DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 8:21:09 PM
Re: Time to Get Smart About SMB Services
@Ray, great insight.  They are truly missing the market opportunity in developing communications connectivity through tiered communication services, as you point out.  Cities are stepping up and developing, or partnering, to provide broadband infrastructure; so it is only a matter of time where connectivity will be a utility.  Then the markets for the developing SMB market will make sense.

You are right that the FSB is a vested voice, but the issue is of greater value to regional economic development at large.
More Blogs from Shades of Ray
Local branch of Australian service provider causes s**tstorm with advert stating preference for white staff.
Great coffee is essential when at Mobile World Congress and, once again, Spirent has delivered.
The European region, including Russia, has experienced two years of 20%+ growth in FTTH/B connections but many markets still haven't really woken up.
Israeli hybrid network management specialist has a new customer to go with its new strategy – now will it sink or swim?
Chinese giant was hoping to seal a smartphone distribution deal with AT&T but higher powers are still wary of Huawei, it seems.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders talks with VMware's Shekar Ayyar, who explains why cloud architectures are becoming more distributed, what that means for workloads, and why telcos can still be significant cloud services players.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
I'm Back for the Future of Communications
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 4/20/2018
Verizon: Lack of Interoperability, Consistency Slows Automation
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/18/2018
AT&T Exec Dishes That He's Not So Hot on Rival-Partner Comcast
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/19/2018
Facebook Hearings Were the TIP of the Data Iceberg
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/20/2018
Pay-for-Play Is a Sticking Point in Congress
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/18/2018
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed