The future of mobile roaming: how to optimise your business and enhance the roaming experience

Roaming is a huge part of the subscriber experience. Travelling the world and being able to share photos, browse the internet, call friends and family: it’s all possible because of roaming services. Operators aren’t just delivering a telco service to the masses – they’re delivering personal experiences for millions of individual subscribers.

However, in the wake of 2020 travel bans, roaming has been significantly reduced, presenting a challenge for operators. But while roaming may be down, it is far from out. The demand for global connectivity and the reliable delivery of mobile services has continued, albeit less consistently than before, making it even more important that operators optimise roaming services. And in doing this, they can tap into new revenue streams, better connect with customers, and play an integral role in advancing the IoT.

With roaming at the forefront of many operators’ minds, BICS hosted a dedicated session during our Future of Connectivity event, focused on how telcos can use insights obtained from traffic data to drive operational excellence and enhance their roaming offering. Joining the panel were Damion Rose, Senior Product Manager, Mobile Signaling and Roaming Solutions at BICS, and Gilles Hauwaerts, IT Business Analyst at BICS. Rose and Hauwaerts explored the role of advanced analytics in telecommunications.

Data roaming – human versus machine

Kicking off the discussion, BICS’ Damion Rose stated how important it is that carriers recognise that roaming isn’t only about the human subscribers. We’ve been seeing strong roaming traffic volumes to support connected ‘things’, Rose explains. The shift to online living with home delivery has highlighted reliance on roaming by many enterprises and solution providers. Shipping companies, for instance, need to be able to track more packages as they traverse borders, requiring seamless, always-on connectivity.

The past six months have reinforced how important IoT roaming is to an operator’s business, as well as how valuable telematics is becoming to a growing number of verticals. In fact, a recent report from Kaleido Intelligence predicts massive growth in the area of IoT roaming. Over the next five years, IoT roaming traffic is estimated to rise 300%. This will see traffic data volumes go from 127PB in 2020 to more than 560PB in 2025.

Rose explained that it’s highly important to be able to distinguish between human and IoT roamers. However, he added, discerning the real nature of each of the roamers on your network requires more complex analysis. This is particularly pertinent as subscriber behaviour changes and different devices and connectivity use-cases join the market. So, it is possible for a human to appear to be a machine, and vice versa, said Rose. Advanced analytics empowers users to analyse the real-time network activities of subscribers and identify discriminative behaviour patterns to gain transparency into the nature of each roamer on a network, enabling more effective business strategies and value propositions.

Personalisation and user experience

The session also highlighted the importance of seeing roaming as a personal experience for each subscriber, with personalisation providing a means for mobile operators to significantly enhance their roaming business.

Improving this experience could be as simple as an operator personalising the welcome message subscribers receive when they arrive in a new country and connect to a new network. Instead of simply ‘Welcome to France’, messaging can be tailored to an individual’s mobile usage and browsing behaviour. Zero-rated Instagram use and unlimited Netflix downloads could be offered as part of a package for heavy users of these apps, for instance, enabling telcos to simultaneously delight subscribers and drive revenues.

As Rose highlighted, in an increasingly competitive environment, networks aren’t just responsible for a service, they’re responsible for an experience – so these actions really count. A big part of understanding your user experience should therefore be measuring subscriber happiness.

This can be achieved by first identifying what features are unique to your product, spanning anything from enhanced mobile data speeds for retail roamers to seamless global connectivity for telematics enterprises. Once this has been done, networks can measure subscriber happiness by identifying which features subscribers value most, and how well they are working each time.

Managed services and automated anomaly detection

Enhancing roaming services could include upgrading existing systems or adopting a managed services approach to your roaming business. BICS is currently providing this service to two operators in the APEC region. Appointing BICS to manage roaming operations allows operators to focus on other aspects of their business, secure in the knowledge that subscribers can continue to enjoy a seamless roaming experience.

Utilising the in-house expertise of a managed services provider also has benefits from a security standpoint. Telcos can take advantage of tools that ensure optimal security and proactively manage the roaming environment. This includes taking preventative action against potential business disruptions.

When working to ensure the safety of your subscribers’ roaming experiences, automatic anomaly detection can be vital for identifying behaviour harmful to your network. Encouraging viewers to think about the game of cricket, Rose explained that, if you were to feed AI with raw data from cricket matches, it would be able to identify which players had lots of runs and which had lots of wickets. Then, using machine learning, you could label that data, allowing the machine to understand that the former group of players are batsmen and the latter bowlers.

Rose then went on to explore how the same goes for identifying fraudulent network activity, and other experiences likely to have a negative impact on subscriber experience. By labelling anomalous behaviour as bad versus good, networks can automatically identify anomalous activity, and prompt the appropriate reaction.

Analytics and insight

Whether roamers are people or ‘things’, an understanding of the different types of behaviour on an operator’s network is an important element of managing your roaming business. This requires analytics solutions that provide a 360-degree visibility across your network and roaming traffic. Operators need to have the tools to measure the performance of roaming services and get accurate, in-depth understanding of usage, revenue and behaviour patterns. Armed with these insights, they can then customise the services they offer to subscribers.

Roaming volumes may not have been consistent in 2020, but it’s remained an important part of operators’ businesses. With the right tools and the right perception of roaming, operators can enhance not only the ‘telco experience’ but create relevant, meaningful personal experiences too.