Mobile data to drive roaming revenue
The introduction of smartphones that offer ubiquitous Internet access allied to a host of other Internet capable devices (including tablets) has driven a dramatic growth in data usage over the past four years. Three UK reported that its users have more than doubled their mobile data consumption in less than a year: the average users now use 1.1GB, compared to 450MB last year. This provides a major incentive for operators to take advantage of this rapid growth in data usage, by offering attractive pricing models. As in the case of local services, where data is seen as the next growth engine, powered by the proliferation in smart phones, so too in roaming services where data roaming is being seen as the next growth driver. This is further driven by increased availability of cost-effective packages and subscriber control over usage. The majority of mobile roamers use voice when roaming but there is a significant number of roamers who switch off data while roaming. Hence the need to encourage ‘non data’ roamers to be data roamers by the introduction of data bundles and cheaper roaming plans. It must be said that the operators have not necessarily moved of their own volition towards these new pricing models: roaming regulations have had a significant effect in bringing down charges and reducing the chances of ‘bill shock’ from roaming costs. The report found that the number of active mobile roamers is set to significantly increase over the period, as a result of these (in many case mandatory) retail price reductions. With increased demand and improved business intelligence, operators are also now offering a wider range of attractive, value-based and bespoke roaming bundles. This, combined with other factors such as faster networks, a globalised work force and budget air tickets, is driving operator roaming revenues. Consequently, we have forecasted roaming revenue to exceed $80 billion in 2017, or 8% of operator-billed revenues at that time.