We’re into the TOP 3. This article is the 9th in a series of 10 articles on the techniques which can be used to get Roaming Partners to sign Roaming Agreements with you. Seduction may not sound like the right word for the skill needed to get other Operators to be your partner, but what we really mean here is that you have to “win them over” to your way of thinking. These articles are intended to help you get your roaming agreements signed and launched quick!
One of the most important pre-requisites of forming Roaming Agreements with new Operators is what coverage they offer in their territory, is it ubiquitous or does it just cover major cities or does it just cover the capital city?
Coverage comes in at number 2 in my list of most important requirements for getting Roaming Agreements because its fundamental to the success of Inbound Roaming. Let’s imagine my subscriber gets to your country and doesn’t latch onto your network. Most likely it will be because your competitor has grabbed the customer at port of entry into the country and since they have better coverage they have held them throughout their Roaming experience in your country. Quite an asset having a big network!
So the first question from your Roaming Partner will be, “is this coverage across the whole region/country/territory”? If your coverage is not great as an Operator then you have a bigger challenge than most Roaming Teams. While this is outside of your control of influence (thats for the network build team to work on), it will still be a big factor to your success in Roaming rollout.
So if your coverage is not optimal what can you do to assist your Roaming Partners to recognise this… there’s some guidance below. But before I get to that, a word or two about Coverage Information or maps.
Coverage information today as always in the history of Roaming is KING!
When we consider the situation with new generations of services we know very well we will not have ubiquitous coverage of 4G in most countries at launch. So anyone taking a 4G service from an Operator as a customer or Roaming Partner should check if the Operator is offering fallback to 2G/3G coverage, and will want some coverage information for the 4G network. On reflection this feels like the period when we first launched 2G or 2.5G/GPRS so while customers maybe prepared for this it still helps to pre-empt the request for coverage data.
There used to be a time when as part of the pack of information which was exchanged between operators was a hard copy of a coverage map. Each operator had to print coverage maps more or less indicating their coverage and cascade them to their partners.
One of my highlights as a Roaming Coordinator was receiving these beautiful maps full of colour and with the Operators logo in the corner. We used to have to file them away carefully and send them to clients on demand.
I also recall calling my national competitors every month to understand what Roaming Agreements they had launched and exchanging our results. It was significant news to know what International coverage each operator had because it was Marketing warfare (I remember being a Roaming Coordinator at the time when Cellnet finally took over the lead for International coverage from Vodafone, a significant moment in my early career).
Every Marketing department wants to have the most Global Partners!
Then in Europe the situation changed, coverage became ubiquitous, Operators would talk about 99.6% coverage and therefore the need for coverage maps was over. When we started to get discounts on IOTs and Steering of Roaming allowed us to steer traffic the need for attending to coverage maps lost significance. Numbers of agreements were increasing. Then the internet took over the need to show coverage information for us all.
But something else happened too. Operators stopped advertising how many Roaming Agreements they had and started talking about Global Coverage. Now there was really no need to express how much coverage you had by number of Operators but also by maps because the customer was told simply there was Global Coverage.
This is when in my opinion the customer started to get dissatisifed when Roaming, because the marketing message of Global Coverage was not taking into account the fact that an Operator in a third world country didn’t have ubiquitous coverage and infact only really had coverage of its capital city.
Coverage was “patchy” even in some major countries of the world. You most certainly couldn’t take your Nokia up the K2!
Today we still need good coverage information. The GSMA holds some maps contributed by Operators. The Operators Internet pages holds more detailed information. Although maybe its not scrutinised as it used to be, Coverage information/maps represent to your Roaming Partners your networks efforts to build a significant network and a network that customers will be satisfied roaming to. What it also means is that an Operator is building their network instead of cutting it (for reasons of economy) which does and can happen believe it or not.
The Basic Technique: Show your coverage at the point of the Roaming Agreement. If you’re in a developing network show how the coverage is going to be developed or deployed.
The Seduction: Know your network well. Offer detailed online coverage maps. Be aware of what areas are covered and be prepared for questions on them. Know your “network build” especially if your in a developing network. It’s also important to understand which coverage hot spots are important to customers.
Remember, as well as network fault information, if your Roaming Partners express disappointment or concern with your network coverage, pass this information on (including your lost inbound revenue figures) to your network build team, who will consider the lost roaming revenue alongside the domestic lost revenue when considering their strategy for network build.
Good knowledge and evidence of your coverage works, because if an operator believes that you have significant coverage (more or comparative to your competitor), it will be cost effective and justifiable to their team to open a Roaming Agreement with you.
Look out for next weeks article, what do you think is Technique Number 1?
Grow Roaming Consult Rocco.