SMEs lead VoIP adoption stakes

Small to medium enterprises are leading the adoption of commercial voice over IP (VoIP) services, according to new research.

Customer survey results from VoIP provider Engin, along with feedback from the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG), demonstrate strong customer interest in the technology.

Based on feedback from nearly 2500 of its 19,000 customers, ATUG was surprised by the level of VoIP usage among businesses.

Business customers responding to the Engin survey said they have cut their phone bills by 75 percent, on average, with 82 percent of respondents reporting they were 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with the service.

About 41 percent of business users said overall service was better than their fixed-line service; businesses are making 10 percent more calls over VoIP than they did previously; and, perhaps most significant, 8.5 percent of business respondents have cancelled their fixed service to use VoIP exclusively.

Given the long-standing perception that VoIP is lower quality and less reliable than fixed services, these results are a vindication for VoIP advocates like Engin CEO Ilkka Tales.

"When we originally designed our product it was targeted towards consumers," Tales says. "Now, nearly half our customers are SMEs and business usage patterns have increased by around 10 percent. The fact that many had ditched their fixed lines surprised us, because it shows they feel comfortable enough [with VoIP] to do that."

Now 45 percent of the company's subscriber base are SMEs, and the last two financial quarters saw its customer numbers grow by 67 percent and 81 percent.

Revenue for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2005 was $21.66 million, up 31.7 percent over the previous year, while profitability surged 38.3 perecent over the year to $3.94 million.

The SME business, once a curious side business for a consumer-oriented business, has become a strong avenue for growth for the company.

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