Emerging trends in the roaming industry - long live the MNO!

By Pablo Mlikota

Senior Vice President International Mobility Services/e&

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals recovered almost 60% of pre-pandemic levels. The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for international travel as well as the easing or lifting of travel restrictions to date (86 countries had no COVID-19 related restrictions as of 19 September 2022).

The #roaming industry has been a vital component of the telecommunications sector for years, allowing people to stay connected when traveling internationally. It has also been a significant source of revenue for mobile network operators (MNOs). However, with the advent of new players, the industry is undergoing significant changes that will shape its future. In this blog post, we will explore the emerging trends in the roaming industry, the impact of new players, and how carriers are positioned to succeed in the future.

The traditional roaming model has been dominated by MNOs that have signed agreements with other operators in different countries to allow their customers to use their networks while traveling. However, in recent years, new players have emerged that are disrupting the traditional roaming model. These new players include #eSIMs and virtual operators (#MVNOs)

The eSIM is the digital version of the traditional SIMcard, embedded in a device that can be programmed with the necessary information to connect to a network. This technology allows travelers to use their devices without the need for a physical SIM card or a local carrier. This has led to a significant shift in the roaming industry, as travelers are now able to use their devices without incurring high fees for traditional roaming services.

Virtual operators, on the other hand, are companies that do not own a physical network but instead lease network capacity from other MNOs. These companies can offer roaming services to their customers without the need for complex agreements with other operators. As a result, virtual operators are becoming increasingly popular among travelers who are looking for affordable and flexible roaming solutions.

The emergence of these new players is likely to have a significant impact on the traditional roaming industry. MNOs will need to adapt to these changes by offering more flexible and affordable roaming solutions to their customers. They will also need to invest in new technologies such as eSIMs to remain competitive.

Carriers are already positioned to succeed in this new era of the roaming industry. They have significant experience in negotiating complex agreements with other operators and are well-positioned to navigate the changing landscape. Additionally, carriers have the infrastructure and resources to invest in new technologies such as eSIMs and virtual operators.

One of the key advantages carriers have is their extensive network coverage. MNOs have invested heavily in building and maintaining networks that provide coverage in most parts of the world. This means that carriers can offer their customers reliable and consistent service when traveling internationally.

Another advantage carriers have is their ability to negotiate agreements with other operators. This is an essential aspect of the traditional roaming model, and carriers have significant experience in this area. They can use their negotiating power to secure better pricing and more favorable terms with other operators, which ultimately benefits their customers.

Carriers are also well-positioned to capitalize on the emerging trend of eSIMs. They have the infrastructure and resources to support this new technology and can provide their customers with the necessary programming to connect to different networks. Additionally, carriers can use eSIMs to offer their customers more flexible and affordable roaming solutions.

Virtual operators may also present an opportunity for carriers to expand their services and reach new customers. Carriers can lease network capacity to virtual operators and provide them with the necessary infrastructure to offer their customers roaming services. This can be a win-win situation for both parties, as carriers can generate additional revenue from leasing network capacity, while virtual operators can offer their customers more affordable roaming solutions.

In conclusion, the roaming industry is undergoing significant changes due to the emergence of new players such as eSIMs and virtual operators. Carriers are well-positioned to succeed in this new era of the roaming industry due to their experience in negotiating complex agreements, extensive network coverage, and ability to invest in new technologies such as eSIMs and virtual operators. As the industry continues to evolve, carriers will need to adapt to these changes and offer their customers more flexible and affordable roaming solutions.

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