Better SME connectivity would contribute extra £2.2bn a year to Manchester economy

Better SME connectivity would contribute extra £2.2bn a year to Manchester economy

Three Business launches Connectivity Grants to support SME growth in the area


  • Better connectivity among Manchester SMEs would contribute an extra £2.2bn a year to the local economy
  • Over half (59%) of small and medium business leaders say poor connectivity is a frustration
  • With growth a priority for businesses, over half (53%) of Manchester SME leaders said their business could grow faster if they had access to better tech (compared to 43% across the UK), and nearly half (48%) think that their business could be left behind because of it
  • In response, Three Business is providing investment in the area, launching a package of regional support and Connectivity Grants to Manchester SMEs including free connectivity, to help them reach their full growth potential

MANCHESTER, 28th March 2023 – New research from Three Business has revealed that better connectivity among Manchester SMEs would contribute an extra £2.2bn a year to the local economy.

With growth front of mind for SMEs, over half (53%) of Manchester businesses said their business could grow faster if they had access to better tech (compared to 43% across the UK). Nearly half (48%) think that their business could be left behind because of it (compared to 39% across the country).

The analysis, conducted in partnership with Censuswide and Development Economics, also found that while retention is crucial to growing a business, two in five (44%) Manchester businesses think they could lose good employees, compared to the UK average of a third (35%) – and are, therefore, looking to improve their connectivity.

SMEs call for more support

The research comes as SMEs explore how to manage the rising cost of doing business, as the vast majority (82%) of SME leaders in Manchester said they find the current economic climate difficult to navigate.

Manchester businesses have identified where extra practical support would be welcomed:

  • Over half (56%) said that better connectivity would ease some of the financial pressures they are facing
  • 47% said that they would welcome connectivity grants as well as guidance on how to get the most out of their connectivity.
  • 48% said they would like support paying bills

Three launches connectivity grants

In response, Three Business is launching a new grant scheme worth £150,000 for SMEs in Manchester, with support from Greater Manchester Chambers of Commerce. The grants will equip local SMEs with access to Three’s 5G network – the fastest in Manchester* – as well as a team of Three Business specialists. Businesses can apply to receive one of several 5G Business SIM packages, as well as 5G Business Broadband for two years.

Snehal Bhudia, Director of Business Propositions & Go to Market, Three Business said:

“Businesses frequently tell us that great connectivity is one of the biggest enablers of growth, impacting all aspects of running their business – from the experience they can provide to their customers to how happy their employees are and how well they can carry out their jobs. That’s why we’re providing connectivity grants to businesses in Birmingham, so they can focus on doing what they do best and contribute to their local economies.”

Chris Fletcher, Policy Director, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:

Recent events such as Covid-19 have shown how important digital connectivity is for SMEs. Yet, SMEs suffer from poorer connectivity when compared with their large business counterparts. The implications of this divide are reduced opportunities and the inability of these businesses to develop operational resilience. For SMEs, the barrier to good connectivity is not just availability but also affordability. The huge growth in hybrid working, online meetings and ecommerce that we’ve seen over the last couple of years means that having good connectivity is vital for local companies.

“We’re delighted to be supporting Three UK with this new scheme as connectivity is a big concern for Greater Manchester businesses. Businesses will now be able to grow and take advantage of the new opportunities that are available if the tech they’re using isn’t slowing them down.”

3RiO Group, a facilities management business in Manchester, said:

“Connectivity is key for all businesses, and the right infrastructure is critical, especially for those focusing on growth. Three has provided us with a dedicated, forward-thinking communications solution, allowing us to support our customers and collaborate effectively. The combination of the flexibility of Three’s offer in addition to their reliable networks has meant that Three’s Business Broadband/Adapt service has made the perfect partner for us.”

To find out what’s on offer visit here.

To apply for Three UK’s connectivity grant visit here.

Notes to Editors

Media enquiries: Headland

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*Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data for median 5G download speeds. Manchester, Q3-Q4 2022. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.



The research was commissioned by Three and undertaken by Censuswide and Development Economics. Censuswide surveyed over 500 Senior decision makers in SME businesses (i.e., up to 249 employees) based in the UK, to gauge their opinions on usage, understanding, time and monetary costs of technology within businesses.

Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles


Development Economics used the survey data, alongside various datasets published by the Office for National Statistics, to estimate the average annual amount of Gross Value Added (a statistic which measures the contribution made to an economy by an individual producer, industry, or region) associated with every employee, with regional differences in averages also accounted for. This allowed for an estimate to be calculated on the cost of poor connectivity on UK SMEs and the resulting impact on the economy.


About Three 

Three launched in 2003 as the UK’s first 3G only network, laying its foundations as the network that was born to be different. Today Three is a connectivity company that connects people to people, people to things and things to things and has 9.96 million customers.

Our network today covers 99% of the UK population and we carry 28% of the UK’s mobile data traffic.


Three launched 5G in August 2019, is the largest holder of spectrum in the UK and has been recognised by Ookla as having the UK’s fastest 5G network. It is the only operator able to meet the International Telecoms Union (ITU) 2020 standard of 100MHz of contiguous spectrum for full 5G services.


Three is the official partner and shirt sponsor of Chelsea FC men’s and women’s teams.

Three UK is a proud partner of Samaritans, where it will use the strength of its network and technology to connect 1 million people to emotional support.


Three was voted the Best Network for Data by uSwitch, and the Best Wholesale Partner at the Mobile Industry Awards.


Three UK is part of the CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd group of companies which has mobile operations in 11 countries. We employ more than 4,800 people across our offices in Reading and Glasgow and our 311 retail stores.


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