Thanks to our just-released annual data, we can reveal that LTE traffic more than doubled last year, with the same growth predicted in 2018. During this time, an estimated 280 billion messages will be sent via LTE.
The surge in LTE data roaming in the EU is particularly notable; our findings showed an explosion in traffic volumes in the region over the summer period, with an increase of up to 800%! The reason for this growth can be explained in four words: Roam Like at Home. The European Commission’s roaming regulation which came into play in June dramatically slashed the cost to mobile subscribers of using their phone whilst abroad in EU countries.
Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers have taken advantage of this move, enjoying the same data plan for the same cost as they do in their home country. However, we estimate that around 20% of subscribers remain ‘silent roamers’, either because they’re unaware of the change, or are hesitant to use their phones for fear of ‘bill shock’ on their return home. This year, as news of the regulation change becomes common knowledge and people grow accustomed to using their phones wherever they are, a further increase in LTE data roaming traffic in member states will occur. We’ll probably first notice this towards the end of January, when the data on roaming traffic from the winter holiday period lands.
Currently, a total of 562 operators worldwide have launched LTE services, with 540 having launched roaming services. One-hundred-and-seventy of these operators are customers of BICS, giving us a 30% market share, another increase on last year. This is thanks to our global network infrastructure and extensive international community of partners, helping us connect subscribers and devices to the world.
One of the areas which has seen – and will continue to see – an acceleration in connectivity infrastructure and capabilities is Africa. In reflection, 2017 can be viewed as the year LTE across the continent really took off. However, Africa remains one of the only regions in which a number of countries have no LTE services available, or in which only a single operator has launched such as service. Last year saw a number of tier-one operators across Africa launch LTE services, so we can expect more tier three/four operators to follow in their footsteps over the next 12 months, in order to compete with the dominant players.
Approximately forty per-cent of operators worldwide do not offer LTE services, meaning Africa is far from the only area where growth is predicted. Smaller operators in Eastern Europe, South America and the Caribbean will all likely invest in next generation connectivity to provide the level of services many subscribers have come to expect.
With workforces becoming more globalised, populations more migratory, and leisure travel continuing, there is a compelling case for the provision of high quality connectivity services which transcend borders. The ease and cost of roaming in the EU is the perfect example. Once all subscribers are familiar with the new ruling, they are likely to question why a similar service is not available wherever they choose to travel. This may well prompt other governments, regulatory bodies and operators to up the pressure for their own regions to replicate the ruling.
In addition to this democratisation of the mobile roaming experience, there is another huge driver for the provision of LTE roaming services. This is the IoT – but that’s another story!
An article by Mikael Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS