Roam, roam, the freedom to roam…

Wednesday, September 13 2017

Image of two hands with a phone

Five countries, five thousand kilometers and approximately 5 gigabytes of mobile data – the sum total of my road trip across the highways of Europe this summer. Clark Griswold himself would’ve been proud. I’ve done it before but something was very different this year. Gone were the pay-as-you-go data SIM cards, in a multitude of languages and colours. And the daily hunt for Wifi codes, or that elusive spot in the hotel room (where you can surf freely, without perching on a wardrobe or hanging precariously out of a window) were no longer necessary.

It all started on the 15th of June, following the removal of roaming surcharges across the EU. Throughout our European network, we immediately saw an increase in data roaming traffic. On that day alone, the increase in cross-border roaming data volume was several times larger than previously anticipated and this growth wasn’t just a one-off – the high levels of traffic remain. In the months since the big change, traffic on the Telia Carrier IPX Backbone has continued to rise and shows no sign of abating.

Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain saw particularly strong increases in data traffic, as subscribers used their smartphones and tablets even more than they would at home.  Although the traffic increase itself wasn’t really a surprise, the magnitude of the increase was. It seems as though the convenience of mobile data, without the fear of mobile data surcharges abroad, has diverted subscribers away from the inconvenience, insecurity and unpredictability of Wifi hotspots. In addition, roaming traffic volumes appear to have been boosted by ‘home market’ streaming content services such as the BBC iPlayer, where customers can watch their favourite shows whilst away, without the shackles of GEO blocking that one would normally experience with Wifi.  This is because mobile data roaming functions very much like an umbilical cord, effectively bonding subscribers to their home networks and services, wherever they travel.

The removal of roaming charges was widely publicized in the industry and consumers have quickly adapted to their newfound freedom to enjoy their apps, websites and streaming services, just as they would at home.  But despite the obvious potential for a dramatic change in roaming behaviour, it appears that the traffic assumptions made by the EU RLAH working group were a gross underestimation.  Fortunately, the operators appear for the most part to have foreseen significant traffic volume increases and secured additional roaming capacity in advance of the change.

Whilst congestion and lagging have been reported by tourists in some major holiday destinations, these appear largely to have been caused by local capacity limitations in mobile access networks, rather than at the major cross-border interconnection points.

Commenting on the rising data volumes, Matthew Jones, Head of Mobile Data solutions at Telia Carrier concludes, “The barriers to roaming data usage have been removed. The challenge now is for Mobile Network Operators is to ensure they can deliver the user experience subscribers expect.  Consumers demand the highest in speed and reliability, on a par with what they get in their domestic 4G networks.  The gloves are off, and consumers will flood to the operators that deliver.  Our world-class, Dyn #1 ranked global backbone is powering that next-generation of mobile, voice, data and cloud services, giving consumer and business subscribers the experiences they demand.”

I’m already planning my next trip, safe in the knowledge that the car will be even lighter in future, as I can confidently entrust even more of my worldly assets to the cloud…

Want to know more about what Telia Carrier offers within roaming? Click here!