Place your bets now. According to an annual survey conducted by marketing research firm In-Stat, the race between wireless data and voice is becoming increasingly close. The In-Stat survey found that the gap between spending on wireless data and voice services is narrowing, with 44 percent of total wireless budgets now being spent on wireless data versus 56 percent on voice—a change likely encouraged, in part, by the growing popularity of VoIP services. The reversal is a significant one, since large companies have typically spent about two-thirds of their wireless budget on voice capabilities.
According to Allyn Hall, director of wireless research for In-Stat, several other factors have also prompted this change. The chief reasons may that “larger companies are using more and more wireless applications and expanding their base of mobile workers,” says Hall. “Also, 3G wireless services from companies like Cingular and Verizon Wireless are becoming more available.” Wireless providers have spent billions of dollars over the past few years to upgrade their networks to support 3G services, and while consumers have been hesitant to pay for high-priced mobile data access, the effort has paid off in the corporate world, since enterprises appear eager to adopt the 3G cellular technology. “It’s clear that large companies are much more interested in mobile data and are willing to pay for the increased coverage it offers them,” said Hall in a recent press release.
The steady decrease of voice communication costs, thanks in part to the lower price of VoIP, may also be a factor. Finally, Hall attributes the increase in wireless data spending to a “push down of wireless access to e-mail and the Internet in larger companies, plus the need for special applications, like sales force automation.”
The survey revealed several other trends in wireless expenditures. “While wireless spending among medium and small businesses has gone down, it’s gone up for the larger companies that are using more wireless data, which tends to be more expensive.”
The survey was conducted using over 1,000 corporate buyers of wireless service from a variety of businesses. “We were extremely fortunate,” says Hall, “that the respondents were the heavyweight decision makers [of their enterprise]. Forty percent were either CEOs or C-level employees. They make the decisions and are truly aware of the trends.”
In addition to the findings about 3G use, In-Stat also confirmed that the majority of corporate users rank either Cingular or Verizon Wireless as their top choice for mobile phone service.