Ofcom, the UK’s communications industry regulator, has released a report into how SMEs make use of communications services.

‘The SME experience of communications services: research report’ has examined how much SMEs spend on these services, how satisfied they are and problems they experience.

The survey found that SMEs spend an average of £1,400 per year on communications services, with spend increasing as they grew in size. Businesses with fewer than five employees spend an average of £1,105, while those employing between 50 and 249 people spend an average of £11,323.

According to the report, in the majority (77 per cent) of cases, the responsibility for decisions around the buying of communications rested with the SME owner, managing director, partner or other director.

A total of one per cent of SMEs had an IT/telecoms specialist who was responsible. This figure increased to 31 per cent in medium-sized SMEs. The majority (81 per cent) of these decision-makers described communications as fundamental to their business.

It also found that the internet could be problematic for some SMEs. While the numbers are falling, the majority still had asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), and satisfaction with this service was lower than for all other forms of fixed broadband (26 per cent). Speed and reliability remained the two key issues for businesses.

SME employees who regularly worked in sparsely populated areas or while travelling, and who were therefore more reliant on mobile phones, said that they continued to be frustrated with the coverage and reliability of those services.

Ofcom also discovered that many businesses do not put up with poor service. Around half of all SMEs had ever switched to another provider for one or more of their communications services, and one in six had switched in the last two years. Problems with an existing provider was the top reason SMEs would consider switching, along with a perception that cheaper deals might be available elsewhere and poor customer service.

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