Growth in roaming traffic is on a climb rate that would make SpaceX jealous. Last year, according to BICS, the international communications enabler, 4G roaming traffic doubled. The company, who monitors traffic over its network that connects 700 operators worldwide, believes that this growth will continue – and increase – over the next few years as 5G and other technologies are brought online.
This data is reflected in a new report from Juniper Research who forecast that 1.1 billion customers will be roaming by 2024, up from 900 million this year. Again, the company points to the potential that 5G brings to the table and urges operators to continue to adopt fair usage policies to enable this growth and protect and enhance the user experience. If all this happens, says Juniper, wholesale roaming revenues will hit $41 billion by 2024.
Looking back, it seems absurd that regulators would take so long to force operators into fair usage policies and essentially begin the tearing down of the roaming walls. You will remember the arguments that became a running joke in the last few years. Regulators would stick a date for abolishing roaming charges in the diary and Vodafone would pay a visit and suddenly the date would move back a year or two.
Our argument at the time was ‘abolish roaming charges, encourage people to keep mobile data turned on when on holiday or abroad and watch new revenue streams pour into your coffers’. Third party apps like TripAdvisor were begging operators to stop roaming charges. They were even prepared to pay the roaming charges on behalf of customers so that people would use their app out and about and not limit their usage to the hotel WiFi.
Several years ago, at a conference in Hong Kong, the then editor of TelecomAsia Joseph Waring said ‘so, if we can go anywhere and do anything, roaming is dead or irrelevant’. He went on to ask how operators would make money but that is now becoming apparent (at the time it wasn’t).
As Mikaël Schachne, CMO at BICS says “the exponential growth in roaming traffic highlights how important international connectivity has become to the subscriber experience. Through the provision of seamless, cross-border 5G connectivity, operators will be able to create new revenue streams and support a wide range of new and innovative use cases in areas such as automotive, gaming, telemedicine and logistics.”
Roaming is dead, long live roaming.