Operators are neglecting the massive SME opportunity – report

CSPs are obsessed with the large enterprise market and overlooking the billions of dollars available from small and medium enterprises.

This is according to a new report from cloud BSS vendor BearingPoint//Beyond in collaboration with analyst firm Omdia. They point out that SMEs account for 99% of companies by number (but not by value) and contrast that with the claim that CSPs devote 70% of their resources to the enterprise market. They estimate the SME services market will be worth $433 billion by 2025.

The reason service providers disproportionately target large companies is efficiency. If they play their cards right they can flog stuff to thousands of people through a small number of contacts within the company. It requires a lot more work to do an equivalent amount of business with SMEs and, it seems, a lot of operators just can’t be bothered with the hassle.

“CSPs are still trying to approach 5G the same way they approached 4G, with a clear focus on consumer and enterprise,” said Angus Ward, CEO of BearingPoint//Beyond. “However, 5G opens new opportunities for CSPs and one of them is the SME segment.

Digitalization and COVID-19 have transformed the needs of SMEs and their awareness of the impact that new technologies such as 5G, IoT, and AI can have on their business to enhance productivity and efficiency, and boost sales. In fact, our previous research highlighted that on average 73% of global SMEs see 5G as important to their business.

“However, it’s clear that it’s not 5G technology that they’re after, instead SMEs understand that 5G is one part of a broader technology solution that they need. In fact, 93% of SMEs told us that it’s more important for CSPs to collaborate with an ecosystem of partners to build solutions that better fit their needs than to simply provision 5G services.”

Part of the problem is that service providers often just treat SMEs as consumers on steroids, rather than a distinct category, with unique needs. The diagram below illustrates the various stages of evolution from that paradigm, which it labels as ‘consumer up’.

“SMEs are aware of the benefits 5G can bring to their businesses and already view CSPs as their trusted 5G partners,” said Camille Mendler of Omdia. “It’s therefore critical that CSPs enable 5G to triage SMEs’ business context and industry solutions with outcome-based value propositions, to reap the rewards of this customer base.

“In some cases, global CSPs have launched programs that are capitalizing on the SME opportunity. Vodafone Spain offers an all-inclusive value proposition providing SMEs with compelling mobile-first productivity tools. SK Telecom is partnering with the Korea Smart Factory Data Association and software developer, BISTel, to offer a 5G-based big data analysis service to manufacturing SMEs. These types of collaborative approaches demonstrate how CSPs can marry 5G capabilities and other assets with ecosystem players to deliver profound value to SMEs.”

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