RIP silent roamers – welcome RLAH!
Have you been on holiday in Europe in the past year? If so, did you remember to keep your data roaming on?
Since 15 June 2017, mobile subscribers in EU countries have been able to ‘Roam Like at Home’ thanks to new EU rules covering data services, voice calls and SMS within its 28 member states. A great result for the social media-loving millennials, families staying in touch with holidaying loved ones, and conscientious workers on business trips.
For operators too, the boom in travellers roaming abroad has resulted in a shift in dynamics. The loss of revenue generated by roamers – combined with that derived from identifying and monetising ‘silent roamers’ (who would previously have turned their phone off when abroad, or relied on Wi-Fi only), by selling them tailored roaming bundles – has created an entirely new environment.
Our client BICS, a global wholesale carrier for voice, mobile data and capacity services, is just one industry player that’s been affected. In January this year, BICS reported a near-doubling of global LTE roaming traffic. Furthermore, it found a staggering 800% increase in LTE data roaming traffic in the EU compared with 2016, driven largely by the EU’s regulation on roaming charges in June 2017. The company’s recent research came at a perfect time, and its findings should better inform telcos’ future plans, help them to optimise roaming, and demonstrate the benefits of global connectivity.
This doesn’t really come as a surprise given the popularity of data-intensive mobile applications, content streaming, and social media platforms. I for one, was once a self-confessed silent roamer, constantly hopping from one Wi-Fi service to the next whenever I was in Europe, so I really appreciate the ease with which I’m not able to upload photos and videos instantly onto Instagram, or ‘check in’ to a location on Facebook.
However, it is worth remembering there are still countries in very close proximity to the EU which do not fall into the Roam Like at Home rules. Switzerland, Montenegro, Belarus, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are all within a stone’s throw from neighbouring EU countries but are not covered by the ruling. So tread carefully, read your contract’s small print and if in doubt contact your mobile operator before travelling to these countries. It’s still possible to experience a ‘bill shock’ for using your monthly bundle in these non-Roam Like at Home countries – not a pleasant welcome back for any holidaymaker!
We – in the UK – could be on the brink of losing our European privileges as we move closer to quitting the EU’s digital single market. Scaremongering media who love a Brexit-themed story, have suggested that post-March 2019 roaming charges will re-apply, but I think (and hope!) this will be unlikely. Although it’s too soon to say how Brexit will impact roamers, the UK’s main operators have all previously stated that they will not restore roaming charges, and instead will find new ways to monetise their services.
So, encourage your family and friends to remain ‘on’, and to take advantage of the Roam Like at Home perk when travelling to Europe this summer.