A weekend of reflection has made us think a little deeper about the whole roaming fiasco. On the face of it, the sooner roaming charges, and particularly data roaming charges, are scrapped the better off everyone will be. Customers will keep data on while travelling, so they will be happier, operators will have the opportunity to get roaming revenues from those travellers, albeit at fair rates and regulators will be happy because they will not be visited by grim faced people from telcos so often.
The question is whether the delay, or continuing delay, to the end of roaming charges is just about investment and competition – as the financial fellows say. Or is it, in fact, about being buried by a signaling storm?
Suppose – conservatively – that 50 percent of the traveling population switch their data off while roaming. Bear in mind that roaming hub provider, BICS, manages billions of ‘calls’ a day on behalf of 400 mobile operators across the world. Imagine that on 2nd July 2014, 100 percent of travellers leave their data on while traveling. And, of course, also remember that most operators currently ‘bundle’ data rather than sell it in the old fashioned way, by usage.
That will cause the perfect signaling storm while producing little or no extra revenue.
But the answer, like the answer to most things in the communications world at the moment lies in analytics. BICS, according to VP of Mobile Data, Mikael Schachne, “is already providing a wealth of information to mobile operators.” At the moment, it is part of the operator’s package and “can show operators how many subscribers are travelling around the world, where they are and what they are doing.” Plans are also afoot to offer a ‘deeper dive’ into the data in the coming months. It is, of course, one thing to know that a customer is in South Korea using the internet, it is another to know more detail about what he is doing and what applications he is using.
This extra level of knowledge will allow operators to offer ‘passes’ for certain types of content, better quality of service for serious users, and with partners and location based capabilities, offers on a range of products and services.
It is also possible that certain brands – travel web sites for example – might ‘sponsor’ a certain level of roaming. Why couldn’t Easyjet, for example, offer you data roaming deals – they offer you everything else when you book, even seats!
So, the sympathy for mobile operators almost rose to the surface over the weekend. Indeed, the signaling storm will need some careful preparation. But we believe that analytics plus marketing will more than compensate for the inconvenience.