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What is the impact for operators on the elimination of EU roaming from June 2017?

Roaming has been a cash cow for operators in the EU for many years. Roaming revenues are said to be in the region of €4.7 billion annually. As ARPU has been declining, operators with efficient structures in place have been benefiting from roaming. There have been EU regulations around the amount a customer can be charged for roaming. For example since 2011 until 2014, the cost of voice calls made (/min) has reduced by 26%.  These charges continue to put up barriers to people within the EU which goes against the ethos of the EU.

For operators in the EU, charging for roaming within the EU will no longer be allowed from June 2017. Customers should be able to freely travel within EU countries using their phones the same way that they would at home. This takes away the bill shock that people are so used to when they decide to quickly check a Facebook status update or make a call home. This sounds like great news for the customer and really bad news for the EU operators. Or is it really that bad for the operators? As one door closes for operators another one opens. It’s time for operators to start thinking outside the box as the door with €4.7 billion in revenue is closing.

So what do operators do after June 2017 if they can no longer make revenue in the EU?

There are ample ways in which operators can use the data they have on their customers into revenue. We have outlined some of them below:

  • Operators can sell anonymized data to third party companies such as travel companies, car rentals etc. about where, when and how long they travel for
  • Most operators have a loyalty program, you can promote offers from travel related companies to your customer base or get additional discounts for being a loyal customer
  • Sponsored data. Data is now a commodity and for most customers it is in short supply, you can offer your customers who are roaming sponsored data. In return for watching an ad from a partner company, your customer can receive some free data
  • You could team up with companies such as hotels.com or Ryanair.com to sell additional data passes when they are booking a flight or a trip for a discounted rate
  • While customers are in specific countries you could push offers related to companies or tour operators in that country

The possibilities are endless for the operators and the relationships that they can tie in with other companies to leverage off both customers bases is pretty significant.

So what can be done between now and June 2017. One operator in Ireland, eir has made a bold but clever move. They allow customers to use their calls and texts in the EU as part of their monthly allowance. The clever bit is that from June 2017, customers travelling between the EU will not be charged for roaming. So by introducing this before they have to, they have gone one step ahead of their competitors. They just need to remind their customers to keep data roaming switched on when travelling in the EU.

All operators are aware of the changes that are coming down the line in June 2017, but the ones that have started the contingency planning will succeed. It’s all about smarter engagement with your customer, understanding the data and promoting the right offers. If an operator succeeds in this, they will certainly plug the gap in the reduction of roaming revenues.