Are new EU roaming charge limits an opportunity for carriers?

The recently announced changes to EU roaming charges bring a sense of fairness for consumers, many of whom in the past have unwittingly run up excessive charges abroad (and suffered from the subsequent bill shock a month later). After European ministers agreed to regulate and cap mobile data charges within the EU, operators are keen to adopt network sharing models in order to drive cost efficiencies that help offset the associated fall in revenues. To do so, they'll need to adopt a new business model that could see the introduction of network aggregators that bring more choice and fairness for roaming users.

Despite the drop in revenues associated with the regulations, the roaming charges market remains lucrative. In the last few weeks, Juniper Research has valued Operator revenues generated from mobile roaming at more than $80 billion by 2017, compared to over $46 billion this year. These revenues will largely be driven by increasing data usage in spite of reduced pricing.

A key factor in the success of the EU regulations is for operators to shape their services and charges to suit the consumer and their habits – simply adhering to the minimums imposed by the regulations will not deliver the benefits the changes in roaming charges is intended to drive, nor will it offer a better experience for users.

Technical expertise will be a major factor in the rise of aggregation platforms, and it is here that traditional operators need to be cautious of major IT providers outside of the telecoms industry. As increasing numbers of services move toward being cloud-based, the big IT companies are able to muscle in on the space dominated by network operators while delivering greater economies of scale and a longer standing legacy in IT infrastructure than that enjoyed by the telcos.

The attractiveness of a hub operator to a major international business is hard to dismiss – having to only deal with one aggregator network for voice and data roaming services which is able to handle all your executive travel is a huge plus. If, by doing so, the subsequent costs are brought down even further through a bundled package or more transparent insight into data and voice usage, then so much the better.

There are, however, lessons to be learnt from past experience – becoming an aggregator is one thing, but simply becoming a flat intermediary for those providing the important services is not one which will drive loyalty nor long term reward. Operators need to enhance their existing expertise to retain their customer base amid what is likely to become an even more competitive marketplace – especially with the introduction of IT specialists and cloud-providers into the telecoms arena.

Rather than be seen as another bit of compliance to adhere to, these new roaming charges are in fact driving a fresh new opportunity to build loyalty and value-added services with customers.

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