Business mobile communications

by John Tyreman, Mason Communications

Mobile communications are a useful way of keeping in touch with customers and suppliers - and even your own office. But communications on the move can be much more than the mobile phone. In this information sheet we set out the main types of mobile service available, highlighting the key features and costs. Depending on the nature of your business, you could consider using pagers, cordless phones or even a private mobile radio system.

You can find out more about the technologies and what they can offer via our index and links.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones are used by more than 27 million business and residential users in the UK. The networks cover 98-99% of the population.

There are five mobile networks: O2, T-mobile, Orange, Vodafone and now ‘3’ with its third generation UMTS service, plus Virgin and BT Mobile on the T-mobile network, and a host of other service providers as resellers of these basic infrastructures. Handset suppliers include Alcatel, Ericsson, Maxon, Mitsubishi, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Sagem, Samsung, Siemens and Sony.

Costs can be confusing! The overall deal is dependent on coverage, roaming facilities, and the "price plan", for example how many free call minutes are provided per month. A handset may be bundled into the subscription cost. Subscription pre-pay cards cost from around GBP300 pa per user.

Cordless phones

A total of 4 million CT0 (analogue) and DECT (digital) handsets were sold in 1999, to both business and residential users. Coverage is essentially short range, either within or close to your business premises up to a distance of 200 metres, unless combined with mobile.

A cordless phone can connect to any telecoms service provider. Equipment suppliers include Alcatel, Ascom, BT, Betacom, Binatone, Cable & Wireless, Panasonic, Philips and Samsung.

The cost of a cordless phone ranges from GBP40-GBP70 for an analogue model, and  GBP80-GBP110 for digital.

Pagers

Pagers provide one-way text message communication. They are widely used in sales, and by doctors and vets - and MPs! Network coverage is 90-95% of the UK population, and the main suppliers are BT, Pageone Minicall and Vodafone.

A pager costs GBP40-GBP45, and sending a message costs 35-49p (off peak) and 49-55p (peak).

Public Access Mobile Radio (PAMR) systems - analogue

Used by 100,000 business subscribers, in particular in fleet management, service, repair, transport and construction companies for vehicle tracking. Coverage is dependent on licence.

Network suppliers include Fleetcom and National Band 3, with equipment available from Icom, Kenwood, Motorola, Nokia and Tate.

The costs of a PAMR system are made up of a monthly charge dependent on the number of handsets used, covering phone, radio, PABX and group mode (around GBP35 per month per handset), plus equipment costs.

Public Access Mobile Radio (PAMR) systems - digital

The only network supplier of a digital PAMR system was Dolphin (TETRA) which was bought out of recievership by Inquam but was eventually switched off in October 2004.

Was used by 12,000 business subscribers with network coverage 90% of the UK population. Equipment is available from Motorola and Nokia.

Common base stations

Used on a local basis by 60,000 users, such as taxi and catering firms and vets. Handsets can be used within a six-mile range of the base station, while a mobile phone can be used within a 20-30 mile range. Network coverage is dependent on that offered by the service provider.

Network providers include Autocall, Direct Systems Software, London Communications, Normcall and Samair Systems. Equipment is available from Icom, Kenwood, Motorola and Tate.

The monthly fee for this type of service is around GBP8-GBP10 per month per set, dependent on location and the number of channels used, plus equipment costs.

Public mobile data

Used by 50,000 users, particularly for dispatch, service engineering, telemetry, product and vehicle tracking. Network coverage is 90-95% of the UK population.

Network suppliers include BT Cellnet, Cognito, Ram Mobile Data, Securicor Datatrak, Tracker Network and Vodafone Value Added and Data Services, with equipment available from Maxon, Philips, Siemens and Tate.

The monthly charge for this type of service is dependent on the number of units used and the volume of traffic, or on fixed tariffs ranging between GBP17.50-GBP300 per month, plus equipment costs.

Private mobile radio (PMR)

In 1999 there were 300,000 PMR users, including utility companies, the AA and RAC, the emergency services and the police, as well as other large firms.

A PMR service is provided by a company for the exclusive use of its own staff, although system management can be outsourced.

Coverage is dependent on the terms of the service provider's licence. Licences to obtain and operate spectrum can be obtained from the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) (now part of Ofcom).

PMR system equipment is available from Maxon, Philips, Siemens, Simoco and Tate.

The cost of an annual licence is dependent on where the service is used, the number of mobiles connected and base stations used, and congestion in the area of operation. There are also equipment and maintenance costs, but no call charges.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011



See also our UK ICT Directory for supplier lists and links



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