Chief of Strategy & Insights at Kaleido, Nitin Bhas, shares an overview of his appearances at the MEF Global Forum in Barcelona last month, where he presented and discussed Kaleido’s latest mobile roaming market trends with an expert panel. The sessions are available to watch on demand now – MEF Members, login to get the slides.
I had the pleasure of attending the MEF Global Forum where I presented Kaleido’s latest research findings and mobile operator insights on mobile roaming market trends, international travel recovery, and wholesale strategies. Following this, we also had a lively panel discussion on the current status of VoLTE and 5G Roaming, and where the wholesale industry is headed in terms of future deployments and priorities.
Firstly, I presented Kaleido’s most up-to-date travel forecasts, having regularly tracked the international travel market since the pandemic. We estimated international trips globally to have reached 64% of pre-COVID levels in 2022 and exceeded 1 billion for the first time in three years. We noted that consumer confidence in travel is increasing, unleashing pent-up demand among leisure and business travellers alike.
According to Kaleido’s Q1 2023 Roaming Data Hub, the international travel market will return to 85% of pre-COVID volume by the end of 202. However, various geopolitical challenges related to the conflict in Ukraine, a weakened economic outlook for major markets, and other key factors such as the cost of flying, will influence the recovery trajectory in 2023.
According to Kaleido’s Q1 2023 Roaming Data Hub, the international travel market will return to 85% of pre-COVID volume by the end of 202. However, various geopolitical challenges related to the conflict in Ukraine, a weakened economic outlook for major markets, and other key factors such as the cost of flying, will influence the recovery trajectory in 2023.“
This is good news for the roaming industry. We have seen how roaming revenues and traffic were impacted during 2020 and 2021, and we saw how revenues and traffic increased significantly in 2022. Operators and IPX providers have seen significant (~2-3x) uplift in data usage in a post-pandemic world during 2022.
During the panel discussion, we focused on three key themes: the slow migration towards VoLTE roaming, the phased transition towards 5G NSA (non-standalone) and 5G SA (standalone) roaming, as well as the various monetisation and billing challenges (especially with regards to the migration towards BCE).
5G roaming has become a priority area for mobile operators, with operators adopting 5G NSA first and then deploying 5G SA in a phased approach.
We agreed that 5G NSA roaming is predicted to grow faster in 2023 and will become an important revenue driver for mobile operators. However, the panel highlighted the importance of understanding and addressing the various challenges around 5G SA roaming standardisation and the critical use-cases that this will enable.
Several leading telco operators in countries have either shut down or announced plans to decommission their 2G and 3G networks, drawing attention towards the lack of VoLTE roaming agreements worldwide. It is expected that during 2023-2024, VoLTE roaming will continue to progress well in almost all parts of the world.
However, the panel agreed that the most immediate industry need is to prioritise VoLTE roaming strategies prior to launching 5G SA networks and roaming agreements, with a focus on testing and expanding bilateral agreements. Operators must see VoLTE as a 5G investment and continue to develop their 5G assets to ensure that roaming revenues can be maximised by supporting VoLTE and VoNR (Voice over New Radio/Vo5G).
Finally, both my presentation and the panel discussed the opportunities presented by network slicing and the importance to support a faster migration from TAP (Transferred Account Procedures for roaming billing) to BCE (Billing and Charging Evolution).
During the panel, we discussed how not all MNOs will be BCE-capable for some time, and that it will continue to coexist with TAP for the short term. However, it is critical to identify the significant opportunity it presents in order to enable far greater monetisation of new IoT and 5G roaming traffic.
For more roaming research and wholesale connectivity insights, please visit Kaleido’s Research Centre.