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The New Rules of Roaming and how Mobile Operators should play to win

Mobileum, the leader in roaming and traveller data analytics, announces new research aimed at telecom service providers looking to understand key trends and identify new opportunities to transform and monetize roaming business in an increasingly disrupted marketplace. silent roamer

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A key finding is that initiatives in customer behavorial analytics, and new predictive models, can deliver accurate conclusions of roaming customers, with clear graphical representation of results. An analytics based approach enables operators to take immediate action to improve the customer experience for travellers.

Roaming is one area where they can immediately improve the customer experience and provide a mutually beneficial roaming relationship with their subscribers” Tim Moran , Mobileum

A joint effort by the industry recognised roaming experts, Mobileum, and Juniper Research, the report explores the challenges currently facing operators, including the rise of OTT messaging, social media substitution and the silent roamer problem and offers strategic recommendations to enable operators to monetise roaming traffic.

By using analytics to detect customer context, operators can offer targeted bundles, tailored to the roamer’s individual sales history and usage. Service bundling increases overall revenues by reducing the silent roamer proportion. By switching to a business model predicated on big data analytics, operators can thereby maximise their future revenues. It involves a sea change in how businesses operate, but significant benefits await if operators take the right approach.

The chart above highlights that while the number of active mobile connections (SIM-based  connections) increased by 4% globally in 2017,  the number of international mobile roamers increased by nearly 9% representing 10% of total SIM connections. In key markets such as the
US and China, the proportion of international mobile roamers reached 18% and 7% respectively. West Europe continues to lead the global market with mobile roamers being around 35% of its mobile user base.

However, higher pricing levels of data roaming packages means that a good proportion of global users continue to be Silent Roamers.

The Silent Roamer Challenge

A Silent Roamer is defined as ‘an individual who does not utilise voice/video calls, text messages or data when travelling outside their home network, nor do they use any roaming services’. Silent Roamers exercise caution, or do not use voice and data services at all while roaming, thus are a non-user segment. Silent Roaming is largely caused by the high price of roaming, which can result in ‘bill shock’ on the customers’ behalf.

Silent Roamers can also choose to use alternative services, such as a specialised travel SIM, Mi-Fi router or Wi-Fi and VoIP services.

Active Roamer Upselling

Active roamers are an opportunity for MNOs. As they are already purchasing services, they can be incentivised to purchase more based on their usage. For example, if a roamer is silent on 2 of 5 days of a trip, they could be incentivised to purchase a multiday pack. Likewise, roamers who are continually using the full extent of their allowances could be encouraged to use packages with larger allowances.

Silent Roamer Opportunities

As many travellers do not utilise roaming services, there is a significant opportunity in this untapped non-user market. Silence levels should drop quite dramatically in Europe, with the RLAH provisions removing costs for most European users when travelling in the EU. However, other markets
are still far behind. In the US, roaming is a highly expensive proposition, especially for data usage, with even consumer bundles offering debatable value for money. Globally, Juniper estimates around 60% of mobile roamers to be silent data roamers in 2022; in comparison silent voice roamers will be just 22%

These services prevent them from incurring potentially costly charges. A sizeable proportion of travellers, especially from emerging markets, now use dual SIM phones, which allow easier use of second SIMs. These will include specialised travel SIMs or local operator SIMs.

“This research gives operators a clear understanding of the previously unseen opportunities available. As operators and vendors look towards the future of roaming they need to utilize customer data in order to understand the subscriber base and fully engage their customers,” added Tim.

The roaming market has changed massively over the past few years, in particular in Europe. With effect from 15 June 2017, EU member states implemented RLAH (Roam Like at Home) roaming and pay domestic prices for roaming calls, SMS and data; ie roaming providers will not be able to add any surcharge to the domestic retail price on roaming customers in any EU member state.


Other regulatory reforms introduced in the EU include:

Roaming Tariff Notification: To provide transparency and avoid overspending, operators send  automatic alerts to customers with the roaming charges as soon as they have entered the foreign country.
‘Bill Shock’ protection: To avoid excessive data roaming bills, operators are required to cap the volume of downloaded data at €50 ($69), unless otherwise agreed with the operator. Operators are also obliged to send a message (SMS, email or pop-up message) to customers informing them of how much it will cost to surf the net via their mobile phones when they use roaming services and an alert message warning the customer when they have reached 80% of any agreed limit. This is applicable anywhere in the world.


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