International mobile roaming is one of the most important services in the European mobile operator’s portfolio. According to figures released by the GSM Association, some 42 percent of Europeans travel outside their home country.
And revenues from international roaming have accounted for up to 20 percent of total mobile operator turnover in Europe. With the introduction of pan-European regulation, the cost of roaming has become more visible and transparent. But outside Europe, to date, there has been little regulatory intervention on roaming charges.
Mobile roaming is transforming itself in Europe as a result of regulatory intervention by the European Commission (EC). The introduction of a euro tariff on retail and wholesale pricing for voice calls has resulted in a reduction of roaming tariffs within the European area but an increase in international roaming rates to destinations outside of Europe.
The report reveals the increasing availability of ‘opt-in’ bundles offered by operators to bypass the EC cap regulation. There is also the bypass effect of Wi-Fi and VoIP services, which are becoming easier-to-use alternatives to international roaming.
Some mobile operators are now moving away from bilateral roaming relationships. In the past operators helped found a series of roaming alliances, such as FreeMove or Bridge, which offered preferential rates for frequent travellers or business users, but now the importance of the roaming alliance has been overtaken by the rise of the Roaming Hub. The Roaming Hub enables mobile operators to interconnect with a wider range of counterparties and is becoming the preferred method to connect at a wholesale level.