According to Ofcom figures, in 2010, there were 10 million business landlines, which had fallen to 6.4 million by December 2017. Voice minutes have dropped even more dramatically – from 38 million minutes in 2010 to 18.8 in 2017.
Small businesses have been shifting to mobile-only communications for years, but this effect has now entered the large enterprise market. With a choice of mobile (cellular) communications or VoIP applications, the death of the fixed line phone seems inevitable and to be accelerating.
This week PwC announced it will stop using landlines, and will replace these with mobiles by the end of the summer. It says this move is “more efficient” for its business. “With landline usage falling rapidly, we believe that a more mobile-focused policy is a more efficient way of working,” says the accountancy giant.
Emma Thorogood, PwC’s London director of communications, said the shift has been going on for some years, starting with the refurbishment of the company’s offices in Leeds. PWC says that a mobile communications policy is being rolled out simply in response to how staff are now working – as they increasingly work from home, from client’s premises, and travelling abroad. Even when they work within one of the company’s 24 offices, they are often hotdesking, which is far easier to do if staff use mobiles.
Long the core of the B2B market this is great news for mobile B2B providers and bad news for fixed line. Since many service providers are now convergent, there is likely to simply be a switch in revenue from fixed to mobile business units (fixed-mobile substitution). However, it isn’t quite as simple as this. When businesses go fully mobile it opens up the door to even more disruptive policies such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), which fragments communications spending and makes it harder to influence and capture.
As Omnisperience has been saying for some time, the accelerating consumerisation of the B2B communications market will see more large firms behaving like SMEs in many aspects of their purchasing.
BYOD makes sense in today’s business environment because it enables the individual employee to choose a network that works well wherever they are. It also accommodates the use of contractors and short-term staff, as the business market becomes more agile in its use of resources. However, it also introduces well-documented security and operational risks that will have to be managed.
The challenge is for service providers to manage the death of fixed line telephony while keeping hold of as much of the revenue as possible. Mobile communications has the potential to be equally, if not more, lucrative for B2B service providers. However, selling to millions of workers individually, rather than to an IT Director buying tens of thousands of lines, is a challenge and requires a change in the way B2B providers market and sell.