B2B vs B2C telecoms: Business and Consumer cellular services

In mobile telecoms, Business and Consumers are the two customer types that cellular services are provided to. A mobile operator generally has further segmentation within these two key customer types.

When a mobile operator sells its products and services, including cellular services, to Businesses such as companies, shops, etc., the model is called Business to Business or B2B; when an operator sells its products and services to Consumer customers, the model is called Business to Consumer or B2C.

The products and services mobile network operators sell today are not limited to cellular services, but they have a much broader product portfolio that can be offered to various customer segments within business or consumer areas.

What is the difference between B2B and B2C in telecoms?

B2B stands for Business to Business, and it refers to when a telecom service provider sells its products and services to small, medium and large businesses; B2C stands for Business to Consumer, and it refers to a business model where a service provider sells its products and services to individuals.

The terms B2B and B2C are not specific to the telecom industry. Like any other industry, B2B and B2C customers in telecoms have different needs, and the product and solutions are tailored to those needs. A telecom service provider such as a mobile network operator (MNO) can sell its solutions to various customer types, including individuals as well as businesses.

Mobile network operators spend a lot of time and money getting into the minds of their customers to understand the customer needs. They work intensively with their internal staff and external research agencies to learn more about the types of customers and their challenges. Mobile operators and other telecom service providers are constantly trying to find new ways of creating value for their customers. Their solutions are no longer limited to cellular services, but they are expanding into the wider telecom and IT space. The needs of a business customer are very different from those of Consumer customers. While on the Consumer (B2C) side, the solutions may be limited to mobile phone plans and broadband, the business or B2B products and services can be within a range of different areas. Mobile operators today offer products within areas like security, insurance, unified communications (UC), financing, business and consumer broadband etc.

Consumer cellular services: Business-to-Consumer (b2C)

The Consumer segment is generally the most significant customer segment in mobile communications where mobile operators primarily sell pay-monthly and prepaid mobile phone subscriptions, mobile broadband, tablet deals, fixed broadband services, and other value-added services.

Generally, ‘Consumer’ is a big business segment for mobile operators, and a lot of innovation takes place within this segment. Many new mobile communications ideas turn into products and services in the Consumer world and are then reused in the business world. However, there are also times when ideas come into existence based on a business need, but the resulting product or service can also apply to the Consumer segment. In the UK, if you visit the website of any mobile operator, you are likely to see two tabs (i) Personal and (ii) Business. The ‘Personal’ tab is for Consumer products and therefore B2C and the ‘Business’ tab is for B2B.

In B2C, customers can usually purchase the products and services through retail stores and other shops. They can also buy online and get the products delivered to their desired location. Mobile operators typically have their own retail stores to sell directly to the customers, but they also work with other partners who sell on their behalf. Examples of direct selling would be buying a mobile phone service through the retail stores of EE, Vodafone, O2, Three, or any other provider. An example of indirect would be if you were to buy a mobile service of a particular mobile operator through Carphone Warehouse.

Business cellular services: Business-to-Business (b2B)

In mobile communications, the Business segment generally comprises large enterprises, small & medium-sized businesses and small-office home-office (SoHo). Offerings in this segment include mobile and fixed telecom products and services and broader ICT products and services.

For most of us, it is easier to relate to Consumer products and services because they apply to all of us. The Business-to-Business (B2B) area has multiple sub-segments that target business customers of different sizes. At a very high level, ‘Business’ products and services can be grouped into the following three categories:

  • Enterprise (or Large Enterprise)
  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)
  • Small Office Home Office (SoHo)

Enterprise segment has 250-500 employees

The Enterprise segment could be any business with over 250 or 500 employees, depending on the mobile operator. Some mobile operators may have an even higher limit for a customer to be classified as “Enterprise”. Generally, the enterprise segment is a big one for most mobile operators. As the customer is large, their needs vary considerably depending on their size as well as their operational model. Enterprise customers usually require highly flexible mobile solutions tailored to their specific needs. In addition, mobile operators sell custom-made products and services to enterprise customers.

Small & Medium-sized Enterprises have under 250 employees

On the other hand, small and Medium-sized Enterprise customers (SME) are business customers with a lower number of employees compared to large enterprise customers. SME definition depends on the mobile operator in question, but generally, any business customer with less than 250 employees can be classified as SME. For some mobile operators in the UK, this limit may be a bit higher, e.g. 500. SMEs can be broken down into at least two further segments. These sub-segments are micro-businesses, also known as Small Office Home Office (SoHo) and mid-sized businesses, also known as mid-market.

Small Office Home Office (SoHo) has under 10 employees

The smallest segment within Business is Small Office Home Office (SoHo). This micro-business segment consists of very small businesses with under ten (10) employees. In the UK, most contractors and self-employed individuals fall into this category. This segment is the closest to the Consumer segment, and the customer needs of SoHo customers are not hugely different from the Consumer segment. Many customers in this area are also often categorised as Prosumers.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need extra support, especially when preparing for a new job, studying a new topic, or buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy, which explains the network nodes, e.g., BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience, which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if you work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on the product overview and product roadmap.

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