Posted by Ben Bannister, Product Marketing Manager
Roaming bill shock among individual subscribers in the consumer segment is usually caused by a lack of understanding about roaming data usage charges and how these charges are applied. As such it would seem that mobile network operators (MNOs) can still do much to educate their consumer subscribers about the actual costs they will incur for using various different services while they are roaming.
There are a number of options for MNOs. But the logical starting point is to find out how their subscribers are using mobile communications services when they travel and to define patterns of usage, from which to develop compelling and affordable roaming packages.
Until quite recently, it was difficult to get very detailed roaming usage information, but it is now possible to access data down to IMEI, IMSI range or even individual IMSI level if required, to help define two things – how are my customers using services while they are roaming and what sort of devices are they actually using? (For example, iPhone users downloading Apps, Blackberry users accessing email etc.)
Being able to process usage information, and also correlate this to holiday destinations, weekend break destinations, time of year, etc, should provide MNOs with a very clear picture about attractive new ways to package their roaming offers to both encourage subscriber usage as well as protect subscribers from excessive usage.
Developing compelling roaming tariffs is one thing, but the next challenge is how to manage these tariffs and how to package roaming with usage controls and thresholds to ensure that subscribers have the confidence to use their phones, particularly for data services. Providing price transparency is important to ensure that roamers understand exactly what they will be charged for Voice, Text and Data, the moment they switch on their phone in their roaming destination. Using re-pricing techniques it is possible to provide price transparency with margin control, without being constrained by flexibility shortcomings and integration delays in the billing system.
Once the segmentation is complete and the various roaming packages have been developed and communicated, the next step is to provide and communicate a usage policy control mechanism. Such a mechanism should be promoted as an insurance against excessive usage and is used by MNOs to monitor roaming usage in near real-time and provide text alerts direct to the subscriber, when a particular threshold is either approached or reached.
This gives roaming subscribers more confidence and encouragement to use data services, which in turn should lead to a boost in roaming usage because subscribers have more confidence that they can access and download data using the mobile network.
With an attractive price, cost predictability and the confidence that they will be protected from excessive usage, subscribers are encouraged to use voice and particularly data services, which they would previously have avoided while roaming, with the knowledge that their costs are under control and that they will be protected from excessive usage, hence excessive bills. Such an approach has a dual benefit – encouraging data usage while fulfilling regulatory obligations in those regions where such obligations are required – a very satisfying outcome for any MNO.