Wrong number: business comms offer a poor deal

In the latest Inside the Enterprise column, Stephen Pritchard talks about the importance - and cost - of communication.

Anyone who is responsible for paying a business' communications bills will, from time to time, feel that maybe they are not receiving value for money. According to Ofcom, the industry regulator, they would be right.

Businesses in the UK account for 45 per cent of "retail" telecoms spending, earning the industry a massive 13.9 billion in charges and subscriptions in 2008. The total is higher still, when enterprise services, bought by larger businesses, are factored in.

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But the telecommunications industry and that includes broadband and mobile subscribers often treats small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as second, or even third class, customers.

Very large businesses, including multinationals and government departments, can negotiate highly attractive deals. These deals, in turn, allow those organisations to take full advantage of technologies such as unified communications, fixed to mobile convergence, and IP telephony.

Smaller companies, though, are often stuck with a consumer-grade service, but a bill that is two or even three times as high. A typical business ADSL broadband connection, for example, often costs at least 30 a month, while consumers pay perhaps as little as 5.

Business mobile phone contracts, too, are often significantly dearer. For fixed lines, BT has long charged a premium for business lines, and most of its competitors do likewise.

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