au: ACMA report finds SMEs have keen interest in VoIP

More than half of rural Australia still reliant on dial-up InternetResearch released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) estimates 92 per cent of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and 74 per cent of the farming community are connected to the Internet.The ACMA research also found that 93 per cent of SMEs and 85 per cent of farms in Australia report using a mobile phone.According to ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, the research suggests that SMEs and the farming sector are keen adopters of communications technology to assist in managing their businesses.;226576474;226576474;fp;2;fpid;1;226576474;fp;2;fpid;1Small and medium enterprises and the farming sector ‘keen adopters’ of communications technology [news release]Research released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority shows that Australia’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the rural sector are reasonably connected online and on the phone, with 92 per cent of SMEs and 74 per cent of farms having an internet connection, and 93 per cent and 85 per cent respectively reporting the use of a mobile phone.’The research suggests that SMEs and the farm sector are keen adopters of communications technology to assist in managing their businesses,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘Both sectors also indicated that the internet had a significant impact on transforming their business practices and improving processes.’The reports found that broadband take-up is high especially among SMEs, with 91 per cent of those connected using broadband. For the farm sector, there is a continuing reliance on dial-up internet connections: 53 per cent of respondents with an internet connection reported using dial-up. Satellite connection accounts for almost 50 per cent of those respondents with broadband.For both sectors, fixed line services are still the main form of voice communications. However, 19 per cent of SMEs now identify their mobile phone as their main form of communication and 85 per cent of the farm sector has access to both a landline and mobile service. Thirteen per cent of SMEs are also currently using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.The reports are from ACMA’s ongoing Telecommunications Today research program about the take-up and use of telecommunications services in Australia, and can be found on ACMA’s website at Australian Communications and Media Authority has been undertaking an examination of a number of aspects of the use and provision of telecommunications services in Australia.This work program, Telecommunications Today, was designed to assist ACMA in its role as industry regulator and is consistent with its regulatory responsibilities to provide information about the telecommunications industry.The SME and farming reports are the second and third respectively in the Telecommunications Today series. ACMA will also be publishing further reports about consumer satisfaction with their communications services and the level of substitution and complementarity between mobile and landline connections.The objectives of the two reports were to:

  • Identify the levels of take-up and use of various telecommunications services by the SME and farm sector;
  • Explore consumer attitudes to the take up of telecommunications voice and data services, including identifying those telecommunications services perceived as critical to business operations; and
  • Ascertain how factors such as business size, industry sector and location influence the take-up and use of telecommunications services.

Information in the two reports is drawn from several sources, including:

  • A telephone survey of approximately 2,000 farmers across the major agronomic regions in Australia (the AgScan survey) conducted in October 20067 and April 2007;
  • Sensis® Business Index telephone survey of 1,800 SMEs conducted between 24 April and 31 May 2007;
  • Roy Morgan Single Source survey of individual consumers aged over 14 years; and
  • Commissioned work from Woolcott Research, which undertook 12 focus group discussions of residential household consumers recruited from a random sample as well as quantitative research using 1,600 respondents.

ConclusionsThe significant contribution of SMEs to the economy means that any productivity gains stemming from the effective use of communications services can be important in driving productivity in the greater economy.This report has found that the fixed-line telephone is still the backbone of SME operations, with 98 per cent of SMEs using fixed-line voice communications.Mobile phone take-up is high although it has not occurred at the expense of fixed-line telephony, but is complementary. The mobile phone has allowed businesses to operate more flexibly and efficiently, enabling business operators to communicate more readily when not in the office or in the primary place of business.Business adoption of the internet has had a significant impact on transforming SME business practices and driving business process improvements. Today’s SMEs are utilising e-business practices to help them communicate with customers and suppliers, to research markets, products and services, and to conduct online sales and purchases of good and services.Broadband in particular is playing a key role in enhancing business productivity with 92 per cent of SMEs connected to the internet, of which 91 per cent have a broadband connection.Communication via email and internet banking were identified as the most essential internet applications for SMEs, with access to reference information/research data and the ability to look for information about products and services also considered important.Voice communication over the internet is also assisting business productivity. Integrated voice and data networks often provide cost savings in addition to per call rates that are typically lower than fixed-line call rates. While only 13 per cent of SMEs currently use VoIP another 14 per cent of SMEs stated that they intend to adopt VoIP in the future.SMEs have embraced many of the options that modern communications offer. These options provide more flexible ways of conducting business, and consequent efficiencies free up scarce business resources to be directed elsewhere. Looking to the future, as more sophisticated communication technologies are supplied to the market, so long as they are useful to business, will continue to assist and shape the way that business is conducted.The farming sector is generally well connected, with take-up figures similar to overall households.Farming has been reported independently as it not possible to separate the personal and business communication needs of this sector. Farms are both the workplace and the home for many farmers and this drives the take-up and use of communications services. They depend on their communications services — particularly mobile and broadband — for business operations, with nearly half using their mobile for both business and personal calls and 84 per cent using the internet for both business and personal purposes.The type, size and locality of farms also affect the take-up and use of services. Intensive farming such as cotton has led the way in the adoption of technology to help with activities such as water management and crop monitoring. In general, larger farms are better connected than smaller farms.There is a perception among the farming sector that there is limited availability of mobile coverage and broadband services, with those without broadband indicating services are not available or that they live too far from an exchange. Therefore there is a greater reliance on dial-up in rural areas and satellite connections are the most popular broadband service, with half of farmers indicating they have a satellite connection.

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