2014 will be interesting year for sport, our attention will turn to Russia for the Winter Olympics, then to Brazil for the World Cup, but as Roaming regulation comes into force in July and the Roaming market opens up to new suppliers, will our focus be turning to Europe for the real sport?
While we don’t yet have BEREC or the Regulators final word on the Regulation for July 2014 the starting pistol has been shot and some solutions are already racing to take the lead. The decoupling of Roaming services for the domestic subscriber will occur, allowing them the right to choose from a list of players their own winner for their roaming usage. In addition with Local Break-Out the subscriber will be offered choices when reaching their roaming destination of a number of domestic suppliers whom will compete to win their Roaming data usage.
For decoupling, few know who will be at the starting blocks in July 2014. While some say Roaming margins in Europe will be so low by that time, that competing for roaming traffic with the existing Roaming suppliers won’t be worthwhile; others believe that there are a number of MVNOs in training for their chance to join the race.
MVNOs who benefit from the backing of their domestic subscribers are savvy enough and just eager enough to try alternatives.
Roaming MVNOs may actually dominate the race, after all within Europe alone there are almost 600 domestic MVNOs who could take the step to really compete on Roaming with the licensed operators (especially in Germany, The Netherlands and UK who host the largest numbers of MVNOs). That’s not to mention the ability for any MVNO in the world to join the now international competition for the European subscriber provided they meet the entry criteria.
For Local Breakout the home Operator must not stand in the way of the data choices made by the subscriber and the effects this has on the entire Roaming services package (when the customer buys the data traffic locally they will also find that their voice and Roaming SMS traffic will remain on the same network). This essentially forces Operators used to steering traffic to specific markets to consider the impacts of their steering on the customers right of choice.
The question then comes about whether taking away the ability to steer traffic really generates more competition, as without traffic steering the Operators lose the ability to achieve lower than regulated rate discounts for sending their traffic to specific suppliers.
In addition if the customer is in the driving seat of their own Roaming, especially in the case of Local Break-Out the home Operator is going to have to ensure its Roaming Partners have the same level of service in each network in the country the subscribers enter into. This isn’t the case today as service, quality and coverage differs dramatically from Operator to Operator, with some operators for example not offering Pre-Pay Roaming.
Regulation 2012 is also generating further work for Operators. Not only do they have to open within tight timeframes Roaming Relationships with any entity not already open with them, but also by January 2013 all Operators must produce and publish a comprehensive Reference Offer (of what services they can supply) towards MVNOs looking to enter into Roaming and compete with them.
Word is, that no one is really clear if any of the solutions sought to stimulate competition will actually make the finish line and that the Regulators simply need to do something beyond price caps since price caps haven’t met expectations.
Either way Regulation is here and on the top of the agenda in Europe until 2016 (when the effects of todays regulation is analysed) and if there’s really going to be a strong race for competition we will all have to get into training quickly and decide if we want to simply compete or if we want to take home a medal.