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Corporate customers spend big on wireless data

Large firms are upping their monthly spending on high-speed data, as mobile operators look to fill their 3G pipes.

Large business-customers are spending big on wireless data, which is good news for mobile operators that have spent billions on building new high-speed networks.

Traditionally, businesses have spent about two-thirds of their monthly wireless budgets on voice and one-third on data. But according to a recent survey by In-Stat, that split has narrowed. On average, large companies are spending about 56 percent of their budgets on voice services versus 44 percent for data.

This is good news for wireless carriers that have spent billions of dollars over the past few years upgrading their networks to support new third-generation, or 3G, high-speed data services.

As prices on voice-calling have fallen dramatically, mobile operators have turned to new types of data services as a way to boost revenues. The strategy has had mixed results. In general, consumers have been slow to spend significant amounts of money on wireless data services. But large corporate customers have been ramping up spending on data services as they extend their mobility strategies to include not only executives, but also rank and file employees.

"Wireless operators have struggled to give consumers a compelling reason to subscribe to 3G data services," said Allyn Hall, director of wireless research at In-Stat. "But it's clear that large companies are much more interested in mobile data and willing to pay for the increased coverage it offers them over Wi-Fi and WiMax."

Business customers are an important market segment for wireless carriers because of their ability to generate higher average revenues per user. On average, a corporate customer spends about $87.74 per month on voice services alone, while the average consumer spends about $45 per month for voice, Hall said.

In-Stat's study, which surveyed more than 600 information technology managers and top executives, also found that many companies ranked Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless as their top choices as wireless providers.