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U.S.-based SMBs will spend a whopping $20.6 billion on wireless services this year, opening up tremendous opportunities for solution providers and vendors, according to recent research from AMI-Partners.

The country’s largest wireless vendors are ramping up their efforts to become the premier provider to the lucrative small and midsize market, said Carolina Guedes Smith, a senior consultant at AMI, New York.

Cingular Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have all become focused on SMBs, and are working with channel partners to penetrate deeper into the space, she said.

“Sprint and Cingular have introduced new rate plans and contract options to win SMB business,” she said. “They have also established customer care centers that serve the unique needs of SMBs, and they have introduced new products and marketing plans.”

Guedes Smith noted that Verizon has created a sales team that focuses on industry-specific wireless applications to attract SMB customers in key verticals such as wholesale, distribution, construction and professional services.

“SMBs are realizing that business is not always done in the office and they must have a reliable mobile option to allow true flexibility when working at or away from their desks,” said Henry Kaestner, CEO of, a VOIP services provider in Cary, N.C.

Kaestner said the adoption of IP telephony and the convergence of IP applications are allowing SMBs to connect their VOIP networks directly to their mobile solutions without giving up any of the features of their in-house systems.

He said VARS can meet the needs of SMBs by offering bundled mobile solutions with other offerings such as VOIP and managed network services.

VOIP is used by about 10 percent of solution providers and by about 20 percent of midsize businesses, said Guedes Smith.

Most of the large carriers offer packages that address SMBs’ key issues: coverage, customer care, reliability, predictable voice bundles, flexible pricing and unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes.

With 76 percent of small businesses and 88 percent of midsize businesses subscribing to mobile services, these businesses are increasingly savvy about choosing a carrier, she said.

“But, at the same time, because usage needs vary so much from industry to industry and business to business, solution providers have endless opportunities to add value to mobile services,” she said. “Solution providers play a key role in advising and implementing wireless and hybrid wireless solutions that must fit into many different environments.”

Going forward, growth in the SMB wireless market will be largely driven by wireless data applications as the underlying technology is ready for prime time, said Guedes Smith.