Mobile roaming continues to soar, ahead of a year of 5G growth

Telecoms and tech news headlines in 2019 may have been dominated by an explosion of stories about 5G, but beneath the surface 4G has continued to gain momentum, fuelling benefits for consumers and businesses alike. In fact, BICS’s latest findings have revealed that 4G traffic doubled for the third consecutive year in 2019.
Booming demand for international connectivity
BICS’ annual findings on worldwide mobile traffic growth revealed an uplift in roaming traffic across all continents, based on data covering the 700 operators and 500 digital service providers hosted by BICS internationally, accounting for 50% of global data roaming traffic. The growth has been driven by an increase in subscribers travelling worldwide, more cost-effective international roaming tariffs and travel SIMs, and the popularity of IoT devices. The continued growth in 4G roaming traffic highlights the importance of international connectivity to consumers and has been greatly enabled by roaming schemes. Following the European Union’s landmark Roam Like At Home initiative, for example, EU data roaming surged by up to 800%. And with such clear subscriber demand for borderless connectivity, other regions are following suit. The Economic Community of West African States, for example, is implementing its own international roaming initiative. This aims to provide similarly affordable access to data roaming and mobile communication, encouraging international investments and enabling carriers to upsell the competitive roaming packages consumers want.
Roaming into 2020
Subscriber demand for seamless international connectivity will also be supported by the transition to 5G. Around 50 national 5G networks are now live, several which were pioneered by BICS, including a 5G intercontinental roaming service established between Europe and Asia. 5G connectivity is set to unleash a host of opportunities for both operators and businesses, powering the creation of new revenue streams and providing support for innovation in the connectivity space across industries such as automotive, gaming, telemedicine and logistics. In 2020, 5G roaming will gain traction, as service providers progress 5G deployments and launch 5G roaming to support growing demand from both subscribers and industries for high-speed data connectivity. As more 5G networks are established, network carriers can continue to utilise BICS’ IPX platform, benefiting from roaming and inter-working agreements between more than 600 members. Through IPX, BICS will continue to facilitate global growth, enabling network carriers to achieve 5G ‘firsts’, such as the world’s first 5G roaming trial, which was hosted between Swisscom and South Korea’s SK Telecom in July 2019. Such promising statistics should encourage any network carrier to keep roaming at the heart of their service offerings. With high-quality global mobility services so clearly valued by end-users, 4G/LTE traffic will continue on an upward trajectory through 2020, with 5G roaming emerging as a major revenue generator in the coming years.