In e-business transactions, not only business partners, i.e., suppliers or customers, or internal addressees are involved, but also a number of 'invisible' service providers (see Preissl 2000, OECD 1999). The latter are companies that are responsible for the availability and functioning of essential infrastructures as well as for software and services guaranteeing smooth network operations. While the first set of participants are deliberately contacted in each e-business-related communication by one of the parties involved, the second group, the network service related participants are usually operating automatically, once a communication is initiated. They only play a role as active and visible partners in the setting up procedures of network connections. They provide network capacity, operating software, security systems, switching and transmission services. Usually these services are part of a package of internet and communication services which is bought from an Internet Service Provider and a Telephone Operator. Additional services might be bought from software companies that provide encryption or security services. Due to their auxiliary role and invisibility, they should be treated as part of the communication infrastructure a firm is using to do e-business. Only participants in the narrow sense, i.e., visible communication partners are part of the transaction analysis. (Invisible communication partners might, however, be part of the sample representing ICT service industries).

Participants in an e-business transaction can be grouped as business partners, consumers or government. (This kind of aggregation leads to the distinction of B2B, B2C and B2G types of transaction.) Business partners can occur on the input side as suppliers of goods and services as well as on the output side as customers in the business sector. Thus, when looking at complete value chain, distinguishing 'demand' and 'supply' does not lead very far. A company as a unit of research can be on the demand side for one set of transactions and on the supply side for the other. Consumers usually belong to the output side of the value chain, although links might exist that let input in the form of customer information flow back from consumers into the companies' marketing departments. Government participants can also appear on both sides, as providers of auxiliary services (e.g., the granting of licenses) and as customers.

Participants in the business and consumer categories should also be distinguished according to their geographical location. This is important to be able to monitor changes in the market reach of firms due to the implementation of e-business (see Steinfield/Klein 1999, Steinfield/Whitten 1999). Distance measures (0-50, 50-200, more than 200 km) as well as a distinction between domestic and foreign partners should be adopted.