The usage of mobile data services is expected to generate 40% of all roaming revenues by 2017, according to a new study from Juniper Research.
The market-research company predicts that mobile data roaming revenues will grow at an annual rate of 21% over the next five years, generating more than $35 billion dollars in 2017.
Juniper expects total roaming revenues to exceed $80 billion by the same date, up from around $46 billion in 2012.
Nevertheless, while an increasing number of mobile-phone customers will start to use data services when abroad, many will avoid doing so out of concern about exorbitant charges – so-called ‘bill shock’.
Although operators have been reducing their data-roaming rates – often under pressure from regulatory authorities – many consumers believes fees are still too high.
Per-megabyte roaming charges may be a deterrent, as consumers cannot easily keep track of data usage in the same way they can monitor the duration of voice calls.
Juniper reckons data roaming could be a major opportunity for operators if it is combined with cost-effective packages giving subscribers control over usage.
Western Europe is forecast to account for the highest proportion of global data roaming revenues.
Juniper also notes that as data roaming revenues grow, and instant messaging apps proliferate, SMS roaming adoption and revenue growth will remain modest, relative to data and voice services.
“As data roaming costs are further reduced and smartphone owners find so-called over-the-top services – such as eBuddy and Whatsapp – a cheaper alternative, the average spend per SMS roaming will decline over the forecast period,” said Nitin Bhas, the report author.