Monetising Wholesale Roaming:
Strategies for success

Wholesale Roaming Guidance for MNOs:
Key Roaming Revenue Insights

In today’s interconnected world, seamless connectivity is no longer a luxury but a necessity. With the rise in IoT devices, the imminent global rollout of 5G roaming and the evolution of billing and charging mechanisms, roaming presents a wealth of opportunities for MNOs to simultaneously expand their global reach, enhance customer experience and boost wholesale revenues.

In short, wholesale roaming involves the floor pricing charges agreed between mobile operators to allow their respective customers to use their networks while travelling abroad. It presents significant revenue opportunities for operators through inter-operator tariffs (IOTs), usually negotiated between operators with a local presence for the termination of calls, messages, and data access.

The roaming industry is currently experiencing a rapid shift in roaming traffic as global connectivity rises in a post-2020 world with the adoption of consumer and IoT devices, generating a sizeable amount of data roaming traffic. 

According to Kaleido’s 2024 Wholesale Roaming survey, almost 40% of participating operators saw inbound data roaming traffic increase by over 75% in 2023 compared to 2019. No operators indicated that traffic had not yet recovered to pre-2020 levels, demonstrating significant progress in the travel and tourism recovery.

Figure 1: Survey response to: ‘What level of inbound data roaming traffic did you see across your networks in 2023, compared to 2019?’

Source: Kaleido Intelligence, MNO Wholesale Roaming Survey Q1 2024.

Key Areas Impacting Wholesale Roaming 

Whilst RLAH initiatives and cost-effective roaming bundles have grown steadily over the years, there remains a growing number of ‘silent roamers’ who seek out alternative connectivity options, such as travel eSIMs. Expensive roaming charges, lack of choice, and the cost of switching operators are some of the biggest reasons silent roamers do not use roaming services in most markets. 

eSIMs help consumers overcome all these challenges, as they can switch from one operator to another with relatively little hassle. The growing popularity of eSIM-enabled devices, coupled with the increasing awareness about the option to enable a multitude of cellular networks simultaneously, has led to an increase in the number of people using travel eSIMs whilst travelling.

When asked what impact such roaming alternatives could have on inbound roaming traffic volume and wholesale revenues, 30% of the participant operators said the long-term impact on eSIMs was still unclear at this time. 

Figure 2: Survey response to: ‘How do you see the impact of roaming alternatives such as travel eSIMs on inbound roaming traffic volume and wholesale revenues?’

Source: Kaleido Intelligence, MNO Wholesale Roaming Survey Q1 2024.

 

Although eSIM will almost certainly drive interest in non-traditional roaming services, at this stage, it appears unlikely that a rapid transition from roaming to localised connectivity will take place. MNOs, therefore, have an opportunity to work towards entering the eSIM ecosystem by either partnering with travel eSIM providers or establishing their own eSIM solutions to combat competition. eSIMs also support the proliferation of IoT devices on a global scale.

Kaleido expects that IoT roaming connections will continue to see robust growth, with Kaleido predicting that they will reach 1 billion by 2028. The expansion of IoT devices across various industry verticals presents wholesale roaming business units with an opportunity to capitalise on this growth market. By catering to the evolving connectivity needs of enterprises, operators can unlock new revenue streams and drive innovation in areas such as healthcare, manufacturing, and smart cities.

Meanwhile, 5G roaming will be a critical factor in driving roaming revenues over the next five years and presents operators with an opportunity to innovate and deliver new, smarter and consumer-focused data services. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and UHD video streaming are just some of the innovative services and applications operators can introduce to their roaming subscribers. 5G’s capabilities also extend beyond consumer services into the realm of IoT. Industrial automation and mission-critical communications can benefit from 5G roaming. 

Mobile Internet of Things (MIoT), edge computing and the growth of 5G standalone (SA) technology have uncovered the urgent need for new processes in billing and settlement and are the driving force behind BCE. These innovations require specific functionalities in order to automate wholesale roaming settlements and accurately bill billions of data transactions.

By implementing the BCE standard, operators can streamline their wholesale roaming operations, reduce revenue leakage and improve cash flow management, thus maximising their revenue potential. The need to monetise IoT traffic is expected to lead to significant adoption of the standard in 2024 and beyond due to the high level of flexibility, greater customisation of billing and charging methods, and the automation of the wholesale roaming process.

Increasing Wholesale Roaming Revenues

The disruption posed by 2020 exposed a multitude of vulnerabilities within the roaming industry that forced operators to adapt to new challenges. With revenue margins continuing to be impacted, operators will need to shift their focus on diversifying revenue streams to drive profitability and position themselves for long-term success. 

Figure 3: Survey response to: ‘What will drive roaming revenues over the next 3 years? (Top 5)’

The bar chart shows roaming revenue percentages: iOT roaming use cases (73%), wholesale traffic from Travel eSIMs (64%), IMSI sponsoring for MVNOs/CaaS providers (42%), 5G SA roaming use cases (36%), SG NSA roaming use cases (33%).
Source: Kaleido Intelligence, MNO Wholesale Roaming Survey Q1 2024.

 

Operators can look beyond traditional voice and data roaming services and explore emerging technologies to unlock additional revenue streams. With the predicted growth in both 5G and IoT roaming, it is critical that operators have deeper insights into roaming services and customers. By tapping into IoT roaming use cases, operators can strengthen their position in the wholesale roaming market by forging partnerships with IoT platform providers, fostering innovation and driving revenues through IoT roaming traffic.

The growing importance of analytics is also a key advancement and is set to play a significant role in shaping and evolving the roaming industry. By analysing roaming traffic and historical data, analytics platforms can predict and forecast travel patterns, consumer behaviour, roaming usage and revenues.

The current transformation of the roaming industry means operators are well-positioned to capitalise on the growing demand for seamless connectivity, both domestically and internationally. By embracing innovation, forging strategic partnerships and delivering highly effective VAS, MNOs can emerge as leading innovators in the global roaming ecosystem.

Your Wholesale Roaming Strategy

Interested in positioning your Wholesale Roaming strategy for success? Access our “Wholesale Roaming: Strategies & MNO Outlook 2024” report, offering a comprehensive assessment of market developments, key trends and forecasts.

Blog Author: Dawnn Dinsey (Market Research Analyst)

Request Further Information

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.