The biggest growth opportunities in the roaming market for operators today exist in areas other than regulation, according to a survey conducted by MACH, a provider of cloud-based managed communication services. Wi-Fi and M2M both generated the most interest amongst delegates and industry experts at MACH Insights 2012.
The survey, which questioned more than 100 representatives from global mobile network operators and CSPs, found that more than three-quarters believe Wi-Fi (79%) and M2M roaming (77%) represent a great opportunity for revenue generation. Conversely, more than half (57%) of respondents felt that roaming regulation is not likely to create significant changes in usage patterns, and that reducing the retail price of data to $0.24 / Mbyte is not sufficient to create positive price elasticity in the roaming market, says MACH (Contern, Luxembourg).
“The results of this survey demonstrate that many operators believe Wi-Fi to be a key access technology and are already looking at how to successfully market new Wi-Fi offerings to capitalize on previously untapped revenue streams,” says Rasmus Holst, senior vice president, Market Offering, MACH. “It is also encouraging to see the recognition of growth potential in M2M roaming. As one of the real mega-trends in the mobile industry, M2M roaming is becoming an increasingly attractive opportunity for the international telecoms sector.”
On the other hand, according to Holst, it is surprising to see that legislation specifically designed to encourage the uptake of roaming services within the EU had such a negative impact on respondents.
“In recent years, operators have seen an unprecedented growth in mobile data  usage, presenting a tremendous opportunity for effective mobile data monetisation.  However, in our survey only a small minority of respondents (28%) felt that this will help increase operator revenues,” says Holst.
More than three-quarters of respondents stated that they believe Wi-Fi and M2M roaming will create significant revenue for operators within the next five years. A third (32%) stated that they believe the revenue from M2M will come even sooner – within two years, says MACH.
When asked about their intentions to make these services available to customers, 45% of operators cited that they plan to offer Wi-Fi roaming within the next two years, with one fifth (19%) intending to roll it out within the next six months. Similarly, 22% of operators questioned are already offering M2M specific roaming agreements, with 42% of operators expecting to put these in place within the next two years.