The mobile business | ACMA

Research snapshots

06 May, 2014 10:00 AM

Research snapshots

The mobile business

By Editor

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Australian businesses are using mobile broadband to drive productivity, make faster decisions, improve product and service quality, and become more efficient and flexible.

New ACMA research, The economic impacts of mobile broadband on the Australian economy, from 2006 to 2013, reveals that mobile broadband has dramatically improved productivity and overall economic growth, leading to a $33.8 billion increase in Australia’s economic activity in 2013.

A significant portion of this growth is attributed to the use of mobile broadband by Australian businesses. Drawing on survey results from over 1,000 businesses, the research provides first-hand data about productivity improvements achieved by Australian businesses through the use of mobile broadband and mobile devices.

 

Why is mobile broadband important to Australian businesses? 

Many Australian businesses see mobile broadband technologies as a key driver of greater productivity—for one in five, it’s among the top three factors that improve business productivity (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Top three factors cited as the most important to improving business productivity

Factors to improve productivity Total
(n=1,002)
%
Micro businesses
(n=534)
%
Small businesses
(n=326)
%
Medium businesses (n=100)
%
Large businesses (n=42)
%
Skill development of employees 72 65 80 82 90
Improving internal systems and processes 50 45 55 54 80
Less government regulation 41 45 39 31 12
More efficient tax system 38 43 33 31 15
Investing in machinery, other capital equipment 38 41 36 34 17
Investing in IT systems 33 28 36 42 70
Investing in mobile broadband 20 22 16 23 12
A better economy 1 1 0 1 0
Better mobile\internet coverage 1 1 0 0 0
Weather\more rain 0 1 0 0 0
Other   2 2 0 0 0
Don’t know 1 1 0 0 0

Base: All respondents (n=1,002).

The highest ranking issues for businesses surveyed were employee skill development and investment in IT, machinery and capital equipment. However, when viewed by share of business activity, mobile broadband ranked as an issue of similar importance to a more efficient tax system and less government regulation, both of which are high-profile issues with widespread implications (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Businesses who agree mobile broadband is one of three top factors in improved productivity

Item

Number mentioned

Share of business activity (%)

Share of business numbers (%)

Skill development of employees

716

81

72

More efficient tax system

357

24

38

Less government regulation

408

28

41

Investing in IT systems

346

39

33

Improving internal systems and processes

505

62

50

Investing in mobile broadband

209

26

20

Investing in machinery, other capital equipment

374

34

38

Note: Businesses were asked to choose three of the above issues or to mention other additional issues.
Data source: The CIE based on survey undertaken by Woolcott Research. 

Which businesses are using mobile broadband?

Large businesses are more likely to give employees access to mobile broadband, but its use is widespread across Australian businesses, irrespective of size.

70 per cent of Australian businesses reported that they pay for employee access to mobile broadband devices. This comprises 96 per cent of large businesses, 88 per cent of medium businesses, 77 per cent of small businesses and 63 per cent of micro businesses (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Businesses providing mobile broadband access to some employees*

figure3 gif

Base: All respondents (n=1,002).
*Includes the percentage of businesses that do not provide mobile broadband access to any employees.
Note: Some columns may not total 100 per cent due to rounding.

Even though 29 per cent of businesses surveyed do not pay for employee access to mobile broadband (Figure 3), 15 per cent report that mobile broadband is still used (Figure 4).

This figure is even higher in large businesses, with 50 per cent reporting mobile broadband use for work purposes, even though they do not provide mobile broadband technologies for their employees (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Mobile broadband use among businesses with no paid access

figure4 gif

Base: Respondents whose employees do not have access to business paid mobile broadband (n=293).

The high take-up of mobile broadband across Australian businesses indicates that businesses of all sizes value these technologies.

How are businesses using mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband technologies make a wide range of activities possible—and Australian businesses are taking advantage.

Using mobile broadband devices for phone calls (92 per cent of Australian businesses), emails (86 per cent) and general internet access (82 per cent) is common among businesses (Figure 5).

A substantial number of businesses also use mobile communications for more sophisticated functions such as engaging customers, using corporate applications, accessing cloud services and updating databases/stock inventory management (Figure 5).

Figure 5 Percentage of businesses citing mobile broadband uses

Business size

Use

All

Micro

Small

Medium

Large

Phone calls

92%

91%

93%

82%

100%

Emails

86%

84%

87%

87%

100%

General internet use

82%

79%

85%

82%

96%

Engaging customers

45%

43%

48%

38%

51%

Using corporate applications/

systems

24%

20%

29%

25%

56%

Accessing cloud services

14%

14%

16%

7%

39%

Updating databases/

stock inventory management

22%

21%

24%

19%

28%

Other

2%

2%

2%

1%

2%

Base: All respondents who indicated they have access to mobile broadband (n=757).

How have mobile broadband technologies affected the way businesses operate?

The wide range of activities made possible by mobile broadband technologies has enabled many Australian businesses to operate with greater efficiency, speed and flexibility to achieve their varied business goals. Almost two in five businesses reported that their use of mobile broadband technologies has affected the way they operate (Figure 6). 

Figure 6 Percentage of businesses citing impacts

figure6 gif

Base: All respondents who indicated they have access to mobile broadband (n=757).

The most commonly reported ways that mobile broadband has affected businesses operations are:

  • employees being able access the internet anywhere––85 per cent
  • employees using downtime productively—83 per cent
  • faster document review and decision-making—82 per cent. 

Other ways in which mobile broadband has affected business operations includes enabling employees to work offsite and to access mobile applications, mobile systems, and cloud services (Figure 7).

Figure 7 Percentage of businesses reporting operational impacts

Impact on business operations

Business size

Total

(n=322)

Micro

(n=139)

Small

(n=114)

Medium (n=46)

Large

(n=23)

Employees can access internet anywhere

85%

84%

83%

93%

97%

Employees can use downtime productively—travelling or after work hours

83%

81%

82%

88%

97%

Faster document review and decision-making

82%

78%

82%

90%

99%

Ability to use mobile apps/mobile systems/cloud services—helping organisational processes

75%

72%

76%

80%

94%

Increased telecommunication costs overall

69%

68%

64%

82%

71%

Ability of employees to work at home or other sites, reducing desktop spaces and rent

67%

68%

62%

79%

82%

M2M technologies (phone talks to car), m-payments, e-wallets

48%

44%

50%

51%

48%

Replace fixed desktop devices

40%

40%

38%

44%

68%

m-commerce offering cost savings to bricks and mortar stores (mobile point of sale, iPad type cash registers, e-wallets)

27%

28%

24%

26%

46%

Base: All respondents who indicated that mobile broadband has impacted their business (n=322).

How much do Australian businesses spend on mobile broadband?

Mobile communications expenditure varied greatly among Australian businesses. A third spent between one and 20 per cent of their telecommunications budget on mobile broadband. Only a small percentage (one per cent) spent between 81 and 100 per cent of their telecommunications budget (Figure 8).

This suggests that despite mobile broadband being widely used and seen as important, the vast majority of Australian businesses do not view it as fulfilling all their telecommunications needs.

Figure 8 Expenditure on mobile broadband as a percentage of telecommunications budget, by business size

figure8 gif

Base: All respondents (n=1,002).
Note: Some columns may not total 100 per cent due to rounding.

Has mobile broadband expenditure increased or decreased over the past three years?

For most businesses (62 per cent), expenditure on mobile broadband has changed over the past three years (Figure 9), with just over a third of these businesses (35 per cent) having increased spending (Figure 10).

Figure 9 Percentage of businesses reporting an increase or decrease in mobile broadband spending over the past three years

figure9 gif

Base: All respondents who spend a percentage on mobile broadband as a share of their telecommunications spend (n=719).

Figure 10 How mobile broadband expenditure has increased or decreased over the past three years

figure10 gif

Base: All respondents indicating that expenditure on mobile broadband had changed over the past three years (n=449).
Note: Some columns may not total 100 per cent due to rounding.

What do businesses expect in the future?

Mobile broadband technologies have enabled many Australian businesses to achieve greater productivity, make decisions faster and conduct business more efficiently.

Importantly, many businesses expect mobile broadband impacts to be even greater in the future—53 per cent anticipate greater impacts on their business over the next five years, compared to those experienced to date. Larger businesses (82 per cent) were more likely to have this belief (Figure 11).

Figure 11 Percentage of businesses citing impacts

figure11 gif

Base: All respondents who indicated they have access to mobile internet (n=757).

About this snapshot

The mobile business researchacma snapshot was informed by the business mobile communications usage and impact survey, which was commissioned by the ACMA, and conducted by Woolcott Research, as part of its study on the economic impacts of mobile broadband on the Australian economy from 2006 to 2013.

The survey provides primary data on the impacts generated from the use of mobile broadband among Australian businesses, and uncovers how these impacts differ across various sectors of the economy.

The study and the survey form part of the researchacma program, intended to inform the ACMA of conditions in contemporary communications and media, and the regulatory policy settings and interventions needed to support efficient use of public resources. 

This research provides important evidence on the factors that influence the requirements for spectrum in the future, such as the increased take-up and use of mobile broadband technologies, and illustrate the impact spectrum-enabled technologies, such as mobile broadband, have on Australia’s economic and social prosperity.

The survey covered 1,002 businesses[1] across the Australian economy, comprising:

  • 534 ‘micro businesses’ (0–4 employees)
  • 326 ‘small businesses’ (5–19 employees)
  • 100 ‘medium businesses’ (20–199 employees)
  • 42 ‘large businesses’ (200 or more employees).

The survey was stratified according to sector and size, with a higher share of large businesses surveyed given their greater economic importance.   

Unless otherwise stated, all data in this snapshot is sourced from this survey. The technical report on the survey is available on the ACMA website. Raw data from the survey is also available in Excel format. 

Background

This researchacma snapshot examines Australian business mobile broadband use. Another snapshot, on the productivity impacts of mobile broadband, will be released in the next few months. In the meantime, you can find out more in the research report, The economic impacts of mobile broadband on the Australian economy, from 2006 to 2013.

Each researchacma snapshot covers a single issue and allows the ACMA to focus on topics of interest to stakeholders. The snapshots and other ACMA research are online at www.acma.gov.au/researchacma.

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