Technology

Going mobile: Should your small business ditch the landline?

Andrew Sadauskas /

Over recent weeks, we’ve looked at some of the decisions you face as a small business owner when establishing landline telephone and fixed broadband services for your offices.

However, increasingly smartphones, tablets and laptops with 4G wireless internet cards are replacing the traditional desktop PC and phone on every desk.

One large Australian business recently decided to remove all the fixed lines at head office altogether, with its staff of 400 being switched to company-provided mobiles.

So why not do away with landline telephones altogether and go mobile only?

SmartCompany spoke to a number of leading Australian telecommunications experts to look at some of the options open to businesses ditching the landline.

The case for going mobile

For understandable reasons, one company keen to promote the idea of going mobile only is mobile carrier Vodafone.

A spokeswoman from the company told SmartCompany going mobile offers a number of advantages, including creating a single point of contact for all staff.

“There are an increasing number of small to medium businesses ditching their fixed-line connections in favour of mobile only. There’s very few businesspeople today who could operate a business without a mobile device, but there’s an increasing number of people who could easily operate without the unnecessary expense of fixed line services.

“Over the past two years, mobile revenue from small business has eclipsed fixed line revenue, as more businesses see the sense in not having to pay for two connections when they only need one.”

According to the spokeswoman, one of the key benefits of going mobile only is the reduction in upfront costs it can represent.

“In terms of start-ups, fixed communications is one of the biggest initial set-up costs. It makes no sense to pay for both a fixed and mobile connection at this stage of the business life cycle, especially in the first years when staff are unlikely to be stuck behind a desk anyway – they’ll be out making sales and marketing their products and services.”

Mobile broadband as an option outside ADSL, NBN and cable areas

One of the downsides of ADSL broadband is that it only works in a limited range of a telephone exchange. Meanwhile, other fast fixed-line technologies (such as cable broadband or the NBN) are not available in all areas. This is often especially true in rural and regional areas.

Will Irving, the group managing director of Telstra Business, told SmartCompany 4G or Next-G (HSPA) wireless broadband remains a viable option in these areas.

“For many customers who are not yet covered by NBN or cable, Telstra Wi-Fi 4G Advanced is perfect for small businesses who want high speed services to share their internet connection with up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices or users at once.

“What’s more, this device operates across our entire network, so if you happen to step outside a 4G coverage area (currently covering 85% of the population), it’ll automatically switch you over to Telstra’s 3G network (covering 99.3% of the population and more than twice the geographic coverage of the next largest network).”

However, Irving cautions wireless broadband prices are generally more expensive than their fixed line equivalents.

“Mobile services are more expensive than fixed line services, so getting advice on how to maximise the value of data usage is important.”

Businesses on the go

Given the additional costs, a key consideration before making the decision is what industry you’re in.

If you have a large number of staff roaming around a warehouse, travelling regularly or moving around the country in vehicles, switching away from landlines could have important business benefits. In contrast, if you have a fixed place of business, such as a shop or office, obviously those benefits are lessened.

According to iiNet general manager for government and business, Daryl Knight, fleet plans or mobile wireless hotspots might be worth looking into.

“Each business is different. There are alternatives to fixed line services, particularly if most of your staff were regularly mobile ­– on the road or remotely located.

“A mobile broadband service may also be useful for the mobile workforce. iiNet offers a selection of SIM-only solutions, which are great if you already have a broadband modem device, through to tablets and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots that support up to five additional users.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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