By Guy Reiffer, Vice President Marketing & Partnerships
Mobile data usage has witnessed unprecedented growth in recent years, fuelled by smartphone and tablet adoption as well as a greater variety of feature-rich content and applications available for mobile connected devices. Despite the rapid growth in domestic data consumption, the vast majority of consumers – 70% according to recent MACH studies – continue to switch off their data connection when travelling abroad due to fear of bill shock. Furthermore, bill disputes resulting from bill-shock cost operators up to 30% of their data roaming revenue, and they have had to pay the wholesale fees to carry that data.
Eliminating the fear of bill-shock and unleashing potential data roamers is the most attractive growth opportunity for mobile operators worldwide, estimated to offer an additional value of up to $900 million globally if such concerns could be alleviated. However in MACHs own studies, the majority of mobile operators (62%) have not yet implemented any form of bill-shock prevention to protect their customers against unexpectedly high data roaming bills.
This situation should improve as a result of GSMA ‘Data Transparency’ initiative which launched in June of 2012. This aims to provide consumers with greater visibility of their roaming charges and roaming services when travelling abroad. The measures broadly break down into:
- Sending text messages to remind customers of their data roaming tariffs when they arrive in another country and turn on their mobile device
- Implementing a monthly data roaming spending limit to help consumers manage their roaming bill and sending alerts when their data usage approaches the limit
- Temporarily suspending data service when usage exceeds a pre-defined spending limit.
It is this last point which seems to be the most problematic for operators to comply with, with only 24% of mobile operators worldwide having a solution that can monitor subscriber data usage in real-time and react to either cut-off data or offer the subscriber the opportunity to buy more data as part of a data package.
At MACH we have been working with many of the operators and operator groups that have signed up to the GSMA initiative and many are now contracted and going live. What is noticeable is that these operators are regarding this as an opportunity to do things differently. To not only solve Billshock for their subscribers but also to use the confidence that this brings to put their subscribers in control of purchasing roaming packs based on zones, Mbytes or time. We are now starting to analyse the results of this on service take up and initial results show significant increases in subscribers that consume data. We will be able to release the results of our analysis soon.