On June 30, 2015, the European Commission announced that it had come to an agreement on its own policies for an open Internet. Following the footsteps of the U.S. Title II ruling earlier this year, there will be no blocking, no throttling, and no fast lanes. Also included is the phaseout of all roaming charges within the European Union. This means an end to revenue from roaming-related billing and possibly travel-centric add-ons within the Eurozone. However, the removal of roaming charges will also open up the network for increased usage — and that could be a good thing for EU operators.
Travelers — especially those on leisure — will use their devices more frequently, from finding the best lunch spot to sharing their experiences on social networks. Those on business will certainly prefer to have cellular connection over the cafè WiFi, since the connections tend to be more secure. Travelers also won’t have a home or office WiFi network, where they would typically offload some of their usage.
According to a study conducted in the 2014 Eurobarometer report, 18% of respondents purchase a travel-specific plan, and 10% swap their SIM cards accordingly when they travel. Next time, these subscribers will no longer need to do anything other than enable roaming on their devices to enjoy the benefits of connectivity while abroad. The Eurobarometer report also shows that just over half (52%) of respondents switch off their phone or disable data roaming when visiting another country. Expect this to change as more subscribers will realize that there’s no need to disable roaming on their devices.
While there won’t be an EU roaming package anymore, operators could see an uptake of additional data add-ons as fair usage limits of data services still apply. The potential for increased mobile data usage and more devices on the network is an opportunity for operators to monetize additional data usage. Many travellers will consume more data than they normally would, and would certainly welcome the convenience of not having to change SIMs. In some popular travel destinations, the local operators may need to prepare for an increase in usage. Having the right network intelligence and insight will go a long way to help monetize and plan for optimal quality of experience (QoE).
Though roaming fees contribute towards operator revenues, they also restrict mobile data usage abroad. When these fees are outlawed on June 15, 2017, the SIM-swappers and travel package subscribers will be able to stay connected with less hassle. For operators, this could mean additional usage to capitalize on and prepare for. Subscribers who turn off their phone or roaming option can also be encouraged to flip on the roaming switch on their smartphones. These are the subscribers who may have been scared off from the bill-shock horror stories, or they simply do not want to pay any extra fees.
When I travel, my provider will send me a message suggesting a travel add-on package. In the near future, perhaps that message in the EU could invite subscribers to use their data, free of roaming charges and fees.