Today’s mobile network operators (MNOs) continue to contend with a host of roaming challenges. In addition to changing regulatory requirements, increasing competitive threats from OTT (over-the-top) players, and new infrastructure requirements for LTE, there is the ever-present “silent roamer” challenge.
However, I think two solutions increasingly show promise as effective ways to counter these challenges. The first lies in MNOs’ capability to gain an instantaneous view of a user’s needs and then use this data to serve them in a relevant and timely way – the concept of real-time intelligence. The second solution is overcoming subscribers’ fear of bill shock by developing sponsored data roaming packages that shift the burden of initiating international roaming service from the subscriber to a third party, such as a B2C or B2B company.
I recently had an opportunity to discuss these concepts at the GSMA BARG (Billing, Accounting and Roaming Group) #84 conference in Cancun, Mexico. The event brings together MNOs, network and infrastructure providers, application and service developers, and private enterprises from around the world to shed light on some of the latest issues and trends in roaming, among other areas. At this conference, I was privileged to have the opportunity to deliver a presentation titled “The Future of Roaming Services” as part of an agenda that included a number of distinguished participants from other technology companies.
The main area of focus in my presentation was on data roaming. Although domestic data usage is growing rapidly, international data roaming usage continues to be limited, as a large percentage of users routinely switch off data service when they travel. As I mentioned above, my view is that real-time intelligence and sponsored data packages offer two powerful solutions to increase data roaming usage. Moreover, two advancements that are enhancing these solutions are the increased rollout of LTE networks and their tremendous improvement in speed, and the expanded use of IPX and its flexibility and single-connection approach in supporting LTE rollout. With these LTE- and IPX-enhanced capabilities, MNOs and enterprises have a wide range of approaches to apply real-time intelligence and sponsored data packages to increase roaming.
Here are three approaches that I shared at the conference:
- Providing proactive service by leveraging individual subscriber data – MNOs must understand subscribers’ usage patterns and use this to take the initiative to meet the needs of individuals. For instance, if a subscriber has opted to allow his MNO to have access to the location information for his mobile device, and his device is detected to be in a particular international city more than three times a year, his MNO must be able to sense this pattern. Using this data, the MNO should then have a system to devise a roaming plan for that city relevant to that subscriber’s particular data service needs, and to reach out to the subscriber with that plan in real time when he is detected to arrive near that city.
- Engaging subscribers with sponsored roaming data packages – In addition to MNO-structured roaming offers, sponsored roaming from a third party like a B2C or B2B company offers a number of benefits to promote data roaming. For subscribers, it breaks the ice and provides an experience that serves as an incentive for them to use data roaming service more and overcome fear about unknown cost. For MNOs, sponsored packages help increase data roaming in general by offering another channel for subscribers through which they can access service. And for companies, it provides a uniquely direct way to engage with customers and present them with special customer-loyalty rewards and other marketing offers as they travel. Sponsored roaming packages represent a major advancement from standard-priced, one-size-fits-all plans, and they enable subscribers to use roaming service more tailored to how they expect to use it. For example, a package can be tailored to provide data service for heavy video streaming, for a business traveler, or for a heavy GPS and social media usage, for a tourist.
- Empowering subscribers to manage their usage – New technologies now put the power of real-time monitoring directly in subscribers’ hands, with interfaces that allow them to access usage information anytime, anywhere. With these innovations, subscribers have an unprecedented capability to set spending or usage thresholds for data services, and receive text-message alerts as they come close to these thresholds. This empowerment provides a powerful tool to prevent bill shock, and MNOs should integrate this tool to the fullest degree possible.
BARG #84 offered an exciting opportunity to exchange insights with the industry’s brightest on what’s ahead for roaming, and I’m fortunate to have had the chance to participate.
I would love to learn what you think. Do you see the use of real-time intelligence as a promising approach to increase data roaming? Do you think sponsored roaming will open the door to more data roaming and alleviate the “silent roamer” challenge? Please leave a comment.