Edwin Haver, Head of Mobile Solutions at Workz Group was invited to be on the panel of CommsMEA’s discussion on roaming in the GCC. Here are excerpts from the interview.
High prices and long, complicated processes of activation often hinder people from opting for roaming packages. How are you countering that?
We’ve been closely working with operators to develop hybrid roaming steering applications that include server, SIM toolkit and app-based solutions providing subscribers complete visibility of their roaming rates and usage. As well as easy-to-manage tariff menus, purchasing and activation, the solution can suggest personalised roaming plans and notify the subscriber when they are close to exceeding usage limits.
The multi-IMSI component via an OTA server allows a subscriber to automatically switch to a network that offers the lowest available tariff based on their subscription model. All this helps deliver a more seamless roaming experience.
What are the additional challenges associated with LTE roaming?
Interoperability between technologies and carriers is a major challenge. Integration of technologies and standardisation of 3G and LTE spectrum is required for seamless roaming. Network ownership also adds complications which is why a central regulatory body such the GSMA or the GCC TRA can prove instrumental in its evolution. The GIPX hub in Bahrain is one such integration initiative which we have seen between Viva and BT.
What kind of revenue potential do you see in the roaming market?
We have all the right ingredients to indicate there’s strong potential here. By 2020, global tourism is expected to grow another 15% plus whilst at the same time mobile penetration is expected to rise another 20%. On top of this, recent studies show that 75% of roamers prefer to be inactive. With such a large segment currently lying dormant, you would expect the removal of high charges to stimulate some of these to become active.
Operators have to ensure that customers know exactly how much using mobile services will cost them when roaming. What systems are in place to take care of this transparency requirement?
When we work with clients we spend a lot of time focusing on device management systems. These can help the subscriber stay informed by notifying them of tariffs and policies as well as, on some platforms, being able to identify which applications are consuming high data.
Additional applications can provide suitable cross-sell or upsell value-added service recommendations which give the user greater guidance as to what’s available. In essence, it is about making the process as seamless and as transparent as possible.
Can the GCC look forward to complete scrapping of roaming charges in the coming years?
The eventual removal of roaming charges appears to be a global inevitability and we’ve already witnessed a recent 40% rate reduction in the GCC. The proliferation of roaming alliances and other such initiatives amongst the GCC countries is likely to further support their elimination. The Zain One Network which offers local roaming rates in selected countries across the Middle East and Africa is a notable example.
How can operators use roaming to retain consumers and differentiate themselves?
First and foremost, operators need to evolve and move away from traditional roaming services. The success of an operator will depend on developing hybrid solutions such as apps that allow personalisation and a variety of roaming plans to suit an individual’s needs.
Roam-like-home plans would de-mystify the service for the user and give them a great deal more confidence in the service. Another differentiator could be allowing users to retain a single number throughout. Ultimately, what will build a strong brand relationship with the end-user is complete transparency coupled with a seamless experience.
Read the full CommsMEA interview here.