SMEs slow to adopt mobile services in China

Claudio Castelli/Ovum
09 Nov 2007

Mobility is becoming increasingly important for SMEs globally, with a rising number of workers being issued various types of mobile device and spend on both mobile voice and data growing each year. However, in China only one-quarter of SMEs' telecoms budget is spent on mobile voice and data, compared to the global average of about one-third.

Mobile voice spend is still more than four times higher than mobile data, which accounts for only 5% of total telecoms spend. Mobile data spend goes mostly on laptop data cards, smartphones and mobile email. However, internal wireless solutions such as Wi-Fi, cordless systems and a number of mobile applications also account for some expenditure.

In contrast to other regions Ovum surveyed, mobile spend in Chinese SMEs is not likely to grow as a proportion of total telecoms spend in the next few years. In fact, SMEs in China forecast their spend on mobile services to grow more slowly than their spend on fixed services.

Only 7% of SMEs expect their mobile voice and data spend to increase by more than 10% in the next two years. They believe their fixed services spend will grow faster on both, voice and data, proving that China is a conservative market in terms of SME mobility and suggesting that it is still a good market for the traditional fixed SME telecoms services. The expected growth in fixed data is due to the fixed broadband growth in China over the last few years.

The market for mobility enterprise solutions is primarily driven by the growing mobility requirements of employees as a part of day-to-day business and the increasing demands of location-independent communication systems.

In China approximately 80% of SMEs' employees are still considered relatively desk-bound. China is by far the market with the lowest mobility profile found in our survey, which covered 11 countries around the world, including Australia, China, India and Malaysia.

In addition, working in a home office is not a practice adopted by Chinese SMEs. No surveyed company claimed to have any home workers. This suggests that cultural factors may determine levels of mobility in the enterprise environment.

The slow growth in spend on mobile services by Chinese SMEs could also be a reflection of their dissatisfaction with the price and quality of services provided. When asked about their biggest telecommunications problem in the coming year, 28% of SMEs pointed to the quality of services. Many also believe that they are paying too much for telecom services, as 24% of the SMEs reported concern over the high prices.

In addition to these main problems, there are other important factors that have a significant impact on the overall attractiveness of enterprise mobility solutions. These include the difficulty in choosing which supplier is best for the company and keeping up with changing technology.

Although SME mobility has not taken off, China is one of the few markets where ordinary mobile phones and traditional telephony services such as DECT are still expected to grow substantially, giving suppliers a unique opportunity to continue leveraging their investments in legacy technologies.

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