New ways for Roaming:


Mobile roaming is an important source of revenue for operators, but ‘Roaming 2.0’ will bring dynamic changes to the market. Orly Nesher of Starhome reckons mobile operators should be preparing for next-generation roaming right now …

The success of roaming is based on giving the international traveler a similar user experience while abroad as they are used to enjoying at home.

However, as the telecommunications market moves towards converged mobility, the new challenge for operators is how to provide a consistent user experience not only in different geographies and networks, but also across different ‘zones’ – including home, office, and hotspots, each using a variety of access technologies, such as GSM, WiFi, WiMax, VoIP, 3G or WLAN.

Despite using or carrying multiple devices, users are not that concerned with the actual specifics of the access technology – simplicity is the basis of mobility success. Customers now expect the same user experience whether at home, on the move or travelling abroad.

Roaming 2.0 is an evolving concept that allows users of different devices to operate across a range of different zones and network islands. For example, a user can be in a hotspot café in their home town, or one in a foreign country, and can choose to receive a call on either their laptop or through their mobile device in exactly the same way.

Real benefits
Users will be interested in the actual real benefits of connectivity, not just which access point or service provider delivers it. ‘Service mobility’ will also be needed in addition to voice and data to allow users to seamlessly use any service, from any device, using any network technology.

With mobile roaming revenues and margins being increasingly squeezed by regulatory pressure, these new opportunities will give mobile operators an opportunity to reduce churn and help to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Mobile operators are already seen by consumers as reliable providers of communication solutions, and they should start to take advantage of this head start to expand their network exposure with converged solutions.

While user perception is changing, the market is also beginning to evolve, and Wi-Fi phone usage is set to increase dramatically. According to Infonetics Research, the worldwide WiFi phone market is set to double every year between now and 2009, when it is set to reach $3.7 billion.

"Roaming 2.0 provides the opportunity to stand out in an increasingly crowded yet leader-less market…"

The increasing popularity of Wi-Fi phones is currently driven by enterprise users using voice over wireless networks. However, Starhome expect WiFi phones will become popular with consumers very quickly, as they start to become part of a complete service bundled with their broadband connections. The convenience of all services coming from one supplier with one bill will be a key differentiator, and users have already proved they are willing to pay a premium for using a single operator with basic layer of roaming or Roaming 1.0.

Roaming 2.0 provides mobile operators with the opportunity to stand out in an increasingly crowded yet leaderless market. Roaming 2.0 will allow operators to provide users with applications, content and the services they need, across a wide variety of geographic, network and technological zones. Users want the flexibility of choosing a single device of their choice, and for delivery to remain seamless as they change ‘zones’, and if the service offered is strong enough, they are willing to pay a premium to get it.

Improving convenience and productivity will be especially attractive to enterprises. Pyramid Research believes operators should start to take advantage of this, rather than ignoring it. They see bundling WiFi and mobile services as the key to success, and predict this will create added value for those relying on access to mobile services as they travel around the world.

As users of Roaming 1.0 became addicted to the ease of use and seamlessness it afforded as they roamed from one network to another abroad, Roaming 2.0 can be even more compelling. Roaming 2.0 will extend roaming capability across different network technologies and user zones, not just geographical areas.

Its success will depend on converging services, seamless access and providing a consistent user experience. Customers, operators and enterprises will all benefit from the seamless continuity Roaming 2.0 will offer. All will enjoy a familiar user experience and seamless service on a single handset, with a single, straightforward bill.

By providing Roaming 2.0 services, mobile operators can strengthen their position as masters of mobile personal communications, extend their offerings and grow their businesses.

Orly Nesher is VP Marketing at Starhome, a leading provider of roaming services and converged solutions for mobile network operators.

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