This page gathers together research on the availability and experience of communications services for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, defined as businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
This report is qualitative research into SMEs’ experience of communications services.
A survey of 1501 SMEs (0-249 employees) was undertaken using CATI (computer aided telephone interviewing). The survey data were weighted to be representative of the SME universe on size. Fieldwork took place between 9 May and 18 July 2016.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) claim to spend, on average, £1.4k per year on communications services, with spend increasing as they grew in size; from an average of £1,105 in zero to four-employee businesses to an average of £11,323 in 50 to 249-employee businesses. These services were seen to be fundamental to more than four-fifths of the businesses surveyed.
The vast majority of SMEs (82%) felt that their business needs were well catered for by the communications market.
The internet could be problematic for some SMEs. Those with an internet connection were very reliant on it. While the proportions are reducing, the majority still had ADSL, and satisfaction with this service was lower than for all other forms of fixed broadband. Speed and reliability remained the two key issues.
SMEs which considered that their growth had been hampered by a lack of service expressed higher than average levels of dissatisfaction with their internet service.
SMEs which felt that there were services not available to them, which their business could benefit from, were most likely to cite a need for faster/ fibre broadband. Larger SMEs, and those in remote rural locations, seemed more affected than other SMEs.
SME employees who regularly worked in sparsely populated areas and/or while travelling in the UK, and who were therefore more reliant on mobile phones, continued to be more frustrated with the coverage and reliability of those services.
This document sets out Ofcom’s views on the provision and availability of communications services for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, defined as businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
It focuses primarily on broadband services and considers whether the provision of broadband adequately addresses the needs of SMEs in terms of availability and product range, and how easy it is for SMEs to navigate the market and switch between providers. We outline the next steps for Ofcom to address the issues identified, and where appropriate, make recommendations to other policy makers and to industry.
This document will be of interest to SMEs and their representatives, the telecoms industry, policy makers, and organisations with an interest in the availability of communications services to SMEs and how these services are used.
Annex 2 - SME Experience of communications services (PDF, 323.0 KB)
A report for Ofcom by Jigsaw Research, 18 Jun 2015
Annex 3 - Understanding the demand for communications services by SMEs (PDF, 1.9 MB)
A report for Ofcom by Analysys Mason, 27 Apr 2015
A survey of 1500 SMEs was undertaken using CATI (Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing). The survey data was weighted to be representative of the SME population on size. Interviews were conducted between April and June 2014.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were claiming to spend on average £1,500 per year on communications services; with spend increasing as they grow in size from an average of £1,025 in the 0-4 employee businesses to an average of £11,532 in the 50-249 employee businesses. These services were described as fundamental to their business by 83% of SMEs. The vast majority of SMEs (85%) felt their business needs were well catered for by the communications market. Of all communications services it was the internet service that tended to receive the lowest ratings. 80% of those with an internet connection rated the importance of fixed internet to the organisation as 8+ out of 10 (60% claimed it was absolutely vital). The majority (66%) had ADSL broadband and satisfaction with this service was lower than with any other communication service (77% versus 88% for PSTN landline and 90% for smartphones). Speed and reliability were the two most commonly given reasons for dissatisfaction with internet services in general.