For those of you who’ve traveled abroad recently and been as reliant on your smartphone away as you are at home, BICS’ latest findings may not come as a huge surprise. 4G/LTE traffic across our global network grew by a tremendous 95% in 2018, in a continuation of the trend for near-doubling of traffic which we’ve identified in recent years.
The surging demand for seamless global connectivity has encouraged more and more operators to launch 4G/LTE roaming, meaning a greater number of subscribers are now able to take advantage of the speeds and quality of 4G wherever they are.
In 2014, a mere 70 mobile operators were offering 4G/LTE to their customers, a figure which has leapt to 610 today. Of this figure, almost a third are customers of BICS, giving us a significant market share. Our roaming solutions are benefiting operators and subscribers across the world, from SK Telecom in South Korea to Swisscom in Europe, and hundreds in between. BICS now enables mobile roaming in a total of 183 countries. If we add just 12 more to this list, then we’ll have the whole world covered!
BICS’ Data Roaming Control solution provides a one-stop-shop allowing operators to:
- Protect customers from bill shock
- Use business analytics tools to promote data packages
- Provide a variety of data roaming plan options
- Give subscribers control real time usage monitoring and policy enforcement
These features not only give subscribers control over their data roaming experience; they also allow operators to unlock new revenue streams. Seventy per cent of smartphone users globally remain ‘silent roamers’, and are not using their smartphone when abroad or travelling (or are connecting over wi-fi only) in order to avoid ‘bill shock’, presenting an enormous, untapped opportunity for operators. So, what does the future hold?
Many of today’s silent roamers don’t realise that using their phone abroad needn’t result in bill shock – instead, operators can use BICS’ tools and take advantage of the above features to stimulate phone usage and give subscribers an affordable, high quality roaming experience. Subscriber data can be gathered and analysed in order to create tailored packages based on usage, and subscribers can be granted more control by setting daily data usage limits.
The future of roaming is therefore highly personalised.
It’s not all about human subscribers though; we predict that these same approaches will be required to enable the roaming of connected ‘things’. The IoT will drive roaming revenues; back in 2016, Ericsson predicted the number of connected devices to have surpassed smartphones by 2018. We may have to wait until the end of this year for the numbers to confirmed, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Ericsson had got it right! From industrial machines and healthcare wearables, to fleets of vehicles and consumer gadgets; these ‘things’ all require continuous, reliable, manageable and affordable connectivity wherever they are in the world.
The future of roaming is therefore also about IoT and the enterprise.
We can’t guarantee a repeat of tremendous doubling of 4G/LTE data traffic when we release our findings next January. However, we’re confident that traffic growth will continue, and that connecting people and things will mean a great future for telcos and subscribers alike.