Wholesale mobile roaming revenues will reach $41 billion: How the operators must respond

With mobile roaming, customers of one mobile service provider can use the network of another mobile service provider if the subscriber's "home network" is not available. As a result, network operators gained flexibility in the release of new cellular services.

Over the next five years, cellular operators will need to make sure that they can offer subscribers new 5G services if they move away from the home network. However, the majority of providers will launch offers through alliances of subregional bilateral packages to gain access to other networks.

Global development of the roaming wholesale market

According to the latest Juniper Research market study worldwide, the number of roaming subscribers worldwide will reach 1.1 billion by 2024 – an increase of 900 million subscribers in 2020. This corresponds to growth of 28 percent in the next four years.

The new study predicts that the wholesale roaming model will be critical to mitigate threats from high traffic generated by new technologies such as 5G and Rich Communication Services (RCS).

When roaming in wholesale, the operators conclude bilateral agreements that ensure the mutual use of mobile networks for subscribers. These agreements include upfront costs and fair use of voice, text messaging and data services during roaming.

Juniper predicts that existing roaming wholesale agreements will need to be modified to accommodate large traffic generated through 5G connections.

Network operators need to ensure that fair use policies reflect mobile traffic growth or risk poor quality user experience on visited networks. RCS is also expected to put additional pressure on operators offering roaming services.

"There will be over 270 million RCS messaging users by the end of 2020. To ensure a high quality user experience, the roaming wholesale agreements need to be expanded to include RCS, otherwise operators may lose traffic for OTT messaging applications," said Sam Barker, senior analyst juniper research,

Outlook on the growth of mobile 5G roaming

Juniper analysts also predict that cellular operators will increase acceptance of the wholesale roaming model as usage policies and roaming features can be updated quickly.

By 2024, around 20 percent of mobile roaming connections will be attributable to 5G-capable smartphones. As a result, wholesale roaming revenue – including voice, text messaging, and data roaming – will reach $ 41 billion by 2024, compared to $ 37 billion in 2019.

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