Roaming – another artificial pricing scheme

Written by on December 22, 2015 in Opinion with 3 Comments

Augusto (Gaius Iulius Cæsar Octavianus Augustus), RomaThe arguments for ending data roaming charges are overwhelming. For a couple of years we have argued that the number of customers who would keep their data turned on when they travelled would far outweigh any short term benefits for operators.

Now, new research from Juniper Research adds fuel to the fire. In a paper entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of the Roaming Empire’ (see what they did there?) they add some numbers to the already substantial pile of data.

Amongst the statistics about how much roaming prices have come down (91 percent since 2007 according to the EU) and how operators must address roaming bill shock (warnings and limits) are some staggering statistics.

For instance, the number of outbound travellers reached 1.38 billion in 2014. The value of Chinese tourists alone reached $165 billion in the same year, with US tourists being worth $111 billion. Now, that is an opportunity.

Interestingly, the European roaming market is becoming almost irrelevant. Inch by inch (or centimetre by centimetre) the Regulator is shutting the door, against some robust and determined opposition. By 2017, we are now lead to believe, data roaming premiums will be a thing of the past. It is actually the further flung regions where the big differentials still exist.

As well as the opportunity of the sheer number and value of tourists who want to use their data while roaming, the Digital Service Providers (DSPs) want customers to use data too. Of course, customers can use Wi-Fi in their hotel or café to plan their day, their meals and their itinerary. But TripAdvisor, Expedia and many others would much rather that people can look for that local eatery while they are wandering through the busy market in Istanbul. And, of course, the opportunities for spur of the moment purchases and location based advertising and offers only really comes into its own, on the, oh, spur of the moment.

It seems completely ludicrous that roaming charges are still something to be discussed. The arguments put forward by operators (national charges will have to increase, investment will be affected) are protectionist at best. They are certainly neither innovative nor competitive.

It is typical of the operator mentality that they try and keep the ship on the same course until they are forced to change. They have now had years to get ready for this one and yet we wait and see whether 2017 is the year that the Roaming Empire dies or not.

Once again, we must ask ourselves ‘What would Google do?’ Actually, what is Google doing?

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Ben Bannister says:

    Good article Alex, as always. For the purists, should that Juniper Research report not be titled “The Decline and Fall of the Roaming Empire”?

  2. Ben Bannister says:

    Maybe they never read Gibbon’s original – Merry Christmas Alex.

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