Prior to 2020, roaming revenues were a safe bet. It typically accounted for 5–10% of mobile revenues and a higher share of profits – even in Europe, where they abolished data roaming charges in 2017. But as borders shut across the globe to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, roaming revenues were slashed by up to 20-30% during 2020. Adding to the pain, the GSMA found that CSPs expect roaming volumes will take two to three years to recover to pre-pandemic levels. So how can communications service providers fast track roaming’s recovery in a post-pandemic world?
According to a recent report by the GSMA Intelligence, there are four key elements that CSPs must consider as they map their path to roaming recovery:
- 2G/3G decommissioning
- VoLTE roaming
- 5G roaming
- Cross-border IoT roaming
As the days of 2G and 3G networks come to an end, there are significant impacts for roaming. For example, 2G and 3G networks have typically been used as base layer coverage. Therefore, if there is a misalignment of coverage when roaming, it may impact the user experience and require your customers to be steered to new partners. This also extends to IoT devices, which typically use 2G networks, and new partner arrangements will need to be secured. But the biggest impact will be the need to shift voice to VoLTE.
While VoLTE will bring benefits such as HD quality voice roaming, there are significant organizational and technical barriers that have slowed adoption. VoLTE network adoption is expected to reach only 40% in the next 12 months but will surge to 75% in the following 12 months. In the interim, CSPs have user experience challenges – such as complications around call completion, short-code use, and emergency and toll-free numbers – to resolve, as well as potential revenue leakage risks as home networks will now be responsible for termination costs.
By the end of the year, 5G connections will rise to nearly 640 million connections (8% adoption globally). By 2025, nearly one in four connections will be on 5G, totaling 2.2 billion. As adoption sets to soar in the next three years, ensuring 5G business models are supported when roaming will be critical. For example, network slicing and edge computing are some of the most exciting 5G applications, however they pose significant complexities when it comes to coordinating these assets across home and visited networks.
The future of IoT might see billions of IoT devices hitting the network. Therefore, as IoT devices increasingly cross borders, CSPs will need to understand how their roaming agreements will fit the needs of IoT use cases. For example, if a partner cannot support power-saving mode, this may impact device battery life and the IoT business model.
As you can see, in a post-COVID era, there are many roaming-related opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed. Whether CSPs can rise to the challenge will be contingent on investing in the future-ready analytics solutions to meet the customer experience demands and securing the new commercial agreements to reduce the risk of revenue leakage. Mobileum’s roaming solutions portfolio enables CSPs to achieve greater automation, interoperability, and QoS across a diverse set of public, private, and shared networks - helping to deliver a better customer experience while protecting the bottom line. Mobileum’s roaming portfolio includes steering of roaming, retail roaming business advisor, wholesale roaming business advisor, roaming data management solutions, iCampaign, Roaming Customer Experience Management, and Roaming replicator.
Join on December 9, GSMA Intelligence, Mobileum, AT&T and experts from across the ecosystem as they share insights from a recent report on roaming post-Covid, explore the new B2B opportunities driven by 5G for roaming and discuss the barriers that remain in the way of roaming’s recovery. Register for this webinar here.