Holidaymakers and frequent travelers on the continent had cause to celebrate few weeks back, when the EU announced it would put an end to roaming surcharges once and for all, helping mobile users avoid sky-high phone bills when they return home.
Following almost ten years of negotiations in Brussels, it was also decided that wholesale charges for data will initially be capped at €7.70 per gigabyte, dropping to €2.50 in 2022. Voice calls will be capped at 3.2 cents per minute, and SMS at 1 cent per message. The changes come into effect mid-June, which means that for many families travelling in Europe for half term, this month will mark the last time they could risk a hefty holiday phone bill.
The decision by EU lawmakers announced last week coincided with BICS revealing the results of its annual research into global LTE roaming. The data showed growing adoption of LTE by operators worldwide, which will no doubt get a further boost this year when the EU policy comes into play. The number of countries now offering LTE roaming services to both their own customers and visiting mobile users has reached 143. This means that next generation data services are available in around two thirds of all countries. The number of operators offering LTE has also rocketed, and over the past few years has increased by over 150%.
This is great news for mobile users, many of whom are now used to the availability and quality of 4G, and naturally expect the same speeds and service wherever they are in the world. As more operators jump on the bandwagon and launch LTE services, so this demand and expectation among subscribers will be felt more widely. This in turn will serve to prompt more operators to act, keen to keep up with the competition and offer the best possible customer experience for data services.
The availability of LTE roaming is now pretty widespread in Europe, and likely to see further growth once the costs for users come down. Yet our most recent data also shows emerging growth areas, with operators in new regions of Africa, Asia and South America now offering the service. And who knows, perhaps the EU ruling will encourage ruling bodies in these regions, which may follow in its stead?
Happy holidaymakers are an important part of the growth of LTE roaming, but there are also opportunities for operators. Carriers are able to offer a greater number and higher quality of services to domestic and visiting mobile users, driving data traffic and boosting revenues.
BICS’ annual review of LTE traffic trends is borne out of our history of LTE service provision for operators. Our IPX platform allows service providers to exchange any IP traffic with any IPX destination through a single interconnection. The platform lets operators connect with other members across the world, making it easy to establish roaming and interworking agreements, which are essential for the service to thrive.
We may have only just released our data for 2016, but we’re already eagerly anticipating the results for the coming year. With the EU ruling coming into force, smartphone and LTE penetration growing in emerging markets, and competition among operators intensifying, 2017 will be the year LTE really goes global.
An article by Mikaël Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS