Asia’s travellers, and especially business travellers, instead of going silent, are ready to use roaming. Data roaming traffic across Asia surged by 245% between 2018 and 2019,with significant increases in roaming traffic both in and out of the region, according to traffic data collected on our global networks. Trends like increasing smartphone penetration which will reach 80% next year (just under 4 billion smartphone connections) according to the GSMA Mobile Economy report, and growth in 4G uptake are creating the perfect conditions that have allowed the service to take off in a big way in other regions around the world. It is the right time for operators, especially from affluent ASEAN markets, to launch Roam Like at Home (RLAH) experiences.
The DIY approach is not fit for purpose for smaller operators
Offering roaming services can allow operators to grow a new revenue stream and average revenue per user (ARPU), increase their global footprint and enhance the subscriber experience. However, industry participants in Asia have traditionally been hesitant to launch, with concerns about profitability and operational management. This is a fair concern – running a global roaming operation involves several dozen full-time employees and providers responsible for different aspects of the service.
For example, a typical medium sized operator would need a large in-house team to set up hundreds of relations on an ongoing basis, manage of financial and data clearing, destinations and bilaterals, and so on. At the same time, the service must be constantly expanded and extended to include new countries on an ongoing basis, and offer new services such as LTE, 5G.Consequently, for smaller operators in ASEAN markets, the numbers sometimes don’t add up to yield a profitable roaming business.
Streamlining the service is key for profitability
Operators seeking profitability from the roaming business must optimise operating costs while streamlining operational activities with no compromise on core services including high-quality voice, signalling and data connectivity covering every generation from 2G, 3G and 4G. Streamlining the roaming operation is a mind-boggling task. Inbound and outbound communications between an operator and its partners related to the information in databases such as IR.21 alone occupies significant time and resource, to name just one example.
By reshaping the way the business is managed at the back-end, Asian operators can make it a growth driveramong subscribers who travel actively and often to overseas markets.
Roaming-as-a-Service – a new paradigm
Operators across Asia-Pacific are increasingly adopting managed roaming offered as a service by global providers with expertise in the domain. Encompassing all aspects of the service – including international data services, voice, SMS messaging, signalling, IPX, data clearing and footprint management, this approach allows operators to outsource the technical and admin burden and get up and running with a global footprint.
One of the most effective aspects of the managed model is that dozens of suppliers who manage different elements of the business are consolidated to one single back-office partner with a comprehensive global offering.
This will streamline back-office operations such as inter-operator tariff negotiations and steering, discount settlements, accruals reporting, central roaming inbox, and fraud management. However the most significant benefit comes from improved quality management. Proactive 24/7 traffic monitoring and troubleshooting allows operators to deliver an enhanced quality of service.
There are two key advantages to managed roaming. The first is bottom line optimisation – both in terms of the costs of managing multiple partnerships and the technical, commercial and administrative time required to manage these suppliers. The second major benefit is improved visibility. Consolidating and unifying the way roaming is managed at the back-end invariably also yields the insights that are essential to run any business profitably – better understanding of roamers’ preferences and activities, network and traffic performance, and on the financial performance too.
As a result, operators can focus their internal resources on improving the customer experience and delivering revenue growth, launching new tools and developing value-added services. And this will allow them to reap the benefits of ongoing network investments, decreasing device prices, and growing consumer appetite for high-speed mobile services.
Written by Malcolm Chan, Managing Director Asia-Pacific, BICS