ACMA report finds SMEs have keen interest in VoIP

More than half of rural Australia still reliant on dial-up Internet

Research released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) estimates 92 per cent of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and 74 per cent of the farming community are connected to the Internet.

The ACMA research also found that 93 per cent of SMEs and 85 per cent of farms in Australia report using a mobile phone.

According to ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, the research suggests that SMEs and the farming sector are keen adopters of communications technology to assist in managing their businesses.

"Both sectors also indicated that the Internet had a significant impact on transforming their business practices and improving processes," he said.

The reports found that broadband take-up is high especially among SMEs, with 91 per cent of those connected using broadband.

Communication via e-mail and Internet banking were identified as the most essential Internet applications for SMEs, with access to reference information/research data and the ability to look for information about products and services also considered important.

For the farm sector, there is a continuing reliance on dial-up Internet connections for 53 per cent of rural respondents while satellite connection accounts for almost 50 per cent of those respondents with broadband.

The type, size and locality of farms also affect the take-up and use of services. Intensive farming such as cotton has led the way in the adoption of technology to help with activities such as water management and crop monitoring.

In general, larger farms are better connected than smaller farms.

There is a perception among the farming sector that there is limited availability of mobile coverage and broadband services, with those without broadband indicating services are not available or that they live too far from an exchange.

Therefore there is a greater reliance on dial-up in rural areas and satellite connections are the most popular broadband service, with half of farmers indicating they have a satellite connection.

For both sectors, fixed line services are still the main form of voice communications. However, 19 per cent of SMEs now identify their mobile phone as their main form of communication and 85 per cent of the farm sector has access to both a landline and mobile service.

An estimated 13 per cent of SMEs are currently using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services but planned adoption rates for the near future are far more positive.

While only 13 per cent of SMEs currently use VoIP another 14 per cent of SMEs stated that they intend to adopt VoIP in the future.

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Sandra Rossi

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