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Smaller firms pour money into wireless

Small and midsize businesses will nearly double spending on wireless services this year, a new report says.

Small and midsize businesses in the United States are expected to virtually double their spending on wireless services this year, according to a report The Yankee Group released Monday.

The small- and midsize-business market for wireless services is expected to grow 93 percent in 2004, compared with last year. That represents average spending of $356,000 per company for wireless services, according to the report.

"I would imagine that wireless, in general, is displacing landline usage, as the (small and midsize) market becomes increasingly mobile," said Eugene Signorini, a wireless analyst at Yankee. "A smaller company generally has a higher percentage of mobile workers, because they usually require more of their workers to be out supporting customers."

On average, 52 percent of employees at small and midsize companies are mobile, spending at least 20 percent of their time away from their primary work site, Signorini said. That compares with 47 percent of workers last year. At large companies, about 39 percent of the workforce is mobile, according to the survey.

Most of the wireless services deployed by small and midsize businesses are related to voice rather than data, Signorini said.

"Data will increase as a piece of the pie, but I don't imagine it ever growing larger than voice," Signorini said. "We see greater interest in developing wireless data solutions among large businesses than small ones." Twenty-four percent of large businesses are launching or testing wireless WANs (wide-area networks), compared with 12 percent of small and midsize businesses, he said.

In the next two years, however, the small and midsize market could see an additional 22 percent of companies launching or testing wireless WAN, according to the survey.