July 19, 2007 6:12 AM PDT

Europe's mobile operators urged to focus on enterprise

Greater use of signal-boosting technology, improved pricing plans and expanded mobile e-mail service could help mobile phone operators in Europe increase revenue from business customers, according to a recent report.

With growth opportunities among consumer services in decline, failure to focus on enterprise services increases a network operator's risk of being marginalized by other providers, according to a report from telecommunications consultancy Analysys, based in Cambridge, England.

Mark Heath, Analysys associate and co-author of the report titled "Seizing the Opportunities from Enterprise Mobility," said revenues from the consumer market are in decline due to price competition and reduced roaming charges.

And yet, the report warns, the effort that operators continue to devote to developing consumer services doesn't reflect the fact that the enterprise market accounted for 37 percent of mobile service revenue in Western Europe in 2006.

But by focusing on voice services for businesses, along with mobile e-mail and other data services that can be accessed both in and out of the office, Analysys says, operators could tap into more revenue.

"What we're seeing now is mobile operators going beyond their core business," Heath said.

Operators could make their services more appealing by improving mobile coverage in offices by installing more in-building base stations--known as pico cells and femto cells. Mobile calls could also be routed more cost-effectively within an office using these femto cells and pico cells, rather than sending calls out to the network and returning them to the same building.

Heath said operators should also change enterprise tariffs so users can access a variety of services without running up "astronomical" bills.

Mobile e-mail is another area Heath feels operators should focus on. "There's a lot of opportunity to expand that out," he said. The value of mobile data services is significant, with non-SMS revenues hitting $11.3 billion in the first quarter of 2007, according to telecommunications researcher Informa.

Heath added that, because many of them feel they fail to receive adequate service, businesses tend to "dislike" mobile operators--a situation that needs to be reversed by more-attentive and innovative service.

Tim Ferguson of Silicon.com reported from London.

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