A few weeks ago I wrote about the topic of Steering and Anti Steering of Roaming. In that post, I discussed the techniques that are used by Mobile Operators to try and force roaming customers onto preferred (steering) or non-preferred (anti steering) mobile networks when roaming abroad. The underlying reason for Mobile Operators developing and deploying such techniques is, of course, their number one concern: revenue.
Much has been written in the press recently about the drop in roaming-related charges that Mobile Operators enforce on customers. A few years ago, you could expect to pay almost 10 times as much for making a voice call in a foreign network compared to making that same call in your home network. Even worse, you were charged regardless of whether the foreign network was a preferred roaming partner or not.
For customers looking to use roaming services today, these charges have dropped significantly. Depending on the country they visit, they may now only pay something like 3-4 times as much as they would on their home network. In fact, in the past few days, regulators have outlined plans to scrap all roaming charges from June 2014 onwards for all subscribers visiting those counties within the European Union.
But even with such a dramatic drop in charges, for Mobile Operators, roaming revenue still contributes significantly to the bottom line. If you look at any Mobile Operators’ financial report, roaming revenue contributes to around 10-15% of their total annual income. The drop in the amount they can now charge to customers roaming in their network has been offset by the sheer volume of customers now using roaming as a service.
Adding another layer onto the issue, we now have data in the mix. Most business, and corporate customers in particular, demand seamless access to business-critical applications such as email and web browsing. They need to access these applications regardless of the country they’re in or the network they’re using.
This growth in data-related revenues will only increase as time goes on. It will particularly become prevalent with the introduction in most countries of 4G or LTE, which will bring with it policy techniques that will enable roaming customers to access data services as if they were in their home network.
So is it all good news for Mobile Operators? For the short to medium term, yes. Even for those Mobile Operators within the EU that will soon no longer be able to charge for roaming service, the big concern is that they will simply increase their regular tariffs to recoup potential revenue loss.
But until then, the only sure-fire way of maintaining such levels of roaming-related revenue will be to depend not only on continued development of Mobile Operators’ networks, but also on the quality of service they can deliver to the customer. Will Mobile Operators be willing to invest in the technology and processes required to provide stellar quality of service? It’s something to keep an eye on as time goes on and demand grows.
Have you noticed a change in quality of service as you travel? Let me know in the comments below.
For further information about Steering of Roaming, watch this video:
Or read this release about Roaming and Inter-carrier Assurance Analytics.
Written by Graham Kunz – Graham on Twitter | Posts by Graham
Graham is Empirix’s European Service Assurance Expert and he’s worked in the tech industry for nearly twenty years. More than 14 years of that time has been in Service Assurance, working with wireless customers and internal teams to understand and capture product requirements, as well as develop and introduce products. His global outlook, wireless technology knowledge and technical know-how provide him with an excellent perspective on the current and future direction of mobility and the wireless industry.