Mobile network operators (MNOs) will see a marked decline in operator-billed mobile roaming revenues through 2017, with those located in Europe seeing the biggest falls.
With the European Union (EU) moving ahead with plans to phase out premium charging for international calls, texts and data while roaming around the 28 member states, telecoms analyst house Juniper Research forecast that MNOs will see roaming revenues fall by 28% in Europe, compared with 7% on a worldwide basis.
Juniper estimated the worldwide mobile roaming market would be worth $52bn (£34.32bn) in 2017, with the highest proportion coming from North America and the Asia Pacific.
Nevertheless, the research suggested roaming revenues will recover in the medium to long term as the lower cost of calls and data inside the EU will remove barriers to using mobiles abroad, resulting in more active usage.
Many predicted EU MNOs would increase their domestic charges in an attempt to recover some of the monies lost to the changes, however, research author Nitin Bhas said levels of competition in the market would put them off going down this path.
“Instead, operators need to encourage more usage. They will need to work with content providers and aggregators even more closely to provide more innovative content services to which users will attach value,” said Bhas.
Outside the EU 28, roaming tariffs will continue to be unregulated and significantly higher, warned Juniper.
The report also found that MNOs would still see a sizeable base of so-called “silent roamers”, for whom the habit of switching off all roaming services or using only Wi-Fi or locally bought SIMs was too ingrained to break.
It also said numbers of in-flight and maritime roamers accessing mobile services on-board aircraft or cruise ships would continue to increase, but over the forecast period would represent a small proportion of total MNO roaming revenue.