While some challenges remain in the development of regional roaming, trends in the market are positive.
Mobile market growth indicates customer bases are increasing in size and usage. Increasing GDP per capita, rebounding inter-regional tourism and continued regional economic integration bode well for business and leisure roaming market growth.
There is also a strong substitutes market in direct competition with mobile roaming and operators are continuously improving roaming offers and transparency to ensure consumers receive the best value from their roaming services.
The global roaming market is characterised by strong price declines across all services and widespread tariff innovation
Operators in all regions are driving retail tariff prices down across all services, with declines of up to 82% since 2007. Another trend over the past few years has been the proliferation of roaming alliances,, such as Asia Pacific Mobile Alliance, Bridge Mobile Alliance, Starmap Mobile Alliance, Roaming Alianza Alliance, as well as partner network roaming agreements which provide consumers access to discounted roaming tariffs, in some cases up to 90% reduction compared to standard tariffs.
In some regions the presence of operators with large geographical footprints has decreased roaming rates to levels similar to domestic tariffs. For example, the Zain “One Network” offers customers roaming rates in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East that are equal to visited country local rates. Other pan-African operators have followed suit to encourage roaming usage over purchasing of a local SIM, which is a common phenomenon and competitive substitute in Africa and Asia Pacific. The Kawa Kawaida alliance offers favourable rates across East Africa. Du offers a single preferential rate across the Gulf countries with local and incoming calls and MTN’s One World ensures local calling rates across African sub-regions.
Innovative sub-region/bilateral packages are also facilitating cross-border travel and trade. Glo’s UNI World encourages roaming between bordering Nigeria and Benin through reduced tariffs. Similarly Argentina’s Claro supports Uruguay – Argentina – Paraguay tourism through reduced rates and innovative monthly roaming bundles.
Equally, operators are offering innovative global tariffs, such as Vodafone Passport or Vodafone Traveller, which permit customers to roam on their standard domestic rate plus a connection fee. In addition to these offers, new roaming bundles and standard tariffs are being launched on a frequent basis indicating significant commercial activity to provide competitive roaming offers to regional and global consumers.
The mobile industry in Latin America is leading the way to eradicating inadvertent border roaming through innovative initiatives. Examples include specialised border tariffs, the option to disable individual customer roaming, and immediate SMS alerts when customers start roaming on a visited country network.