Don’t Get Stuck in the Past – Step into the Steering Evolution

February 7, 2023

Dimitris Zoulis, COSMOTE’s Project Manager for Roaming Services and International Synergies, talks to Daniella Torres about how VoLTE, IoT, and 5G will impact the telecoms industry.

It’s no big secret that the world of roaming is becoming more and more complex. In order to understand the current challenges in the ecosystem, we need to understand how they came about. In our first blog on Steering of Roaming (SoR), we’re looking at the evolution of roaming – from the first roaming agreement to the complexity that exists today, along with the need to simplify it, and how SoR can and needs to evolve in the future as a result.

The Golden Age of Roaming

Did you know that the first international roaming agreement was launched 40 years ago by NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone) in 1982? It’s about as old as MTV. The network was based on an analog system and served people living in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The ‘80s saw the breakthrough of new technologies such as personal computers and video games, but globalization really started with the rise of the Internet in the ‘90s.

The introduction of the GSM standard and its evolution prompted a positive effect on roaming. At that time, roaming represented 15% or more of an operator’s revenues – a dream come true! They simply needed a one-on-one agreement with their partners for basic GSM services, voice, data, and SMS, targeting the retail consumer segment. With less pressure on margins, steering decisions were much easier as the impact of minor mistakes or delayed reaction time was not very high. However, things wouldn’t remain this way for long…

Jump to 2023

Fast-forward to today. Although the principle remains the same, the current scenario for the roaming business is much more complex, dynamic, and competitive. The introduction of the Roam-Like-At-Home regulation, defining wholesale capping charges, has significantly impacted margins. On the other hand, it has boosted usage. Rather than worry about silent roamers who don’t consume any service, operators are currently pushing content offerings to increase service demand.

A Telecom Evolution in the Making

New technologies have evolved since the Nintendo first showed up in our living rooms. Connected devices are everywhere and they are disrupting the roaming market. Operators have outgrown the ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of agreement, and instead, they are negotiating individual agreements per IoT (Internet of Things) line of business, such as health, finance, automotive. They are still trying to understand IoT roaming behavior and assess a long-lasting commercial model for it. For this purpose, detecting and measuring silent devices has become critical. Do you miss the ‘Golden Age of Roaming’ yet?

If this isn’t already complex enough, with the wide deployment of VoLTE and 5G roaming and Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN), along with the retirement of 2G and 3G worldwide, operators need to manage multiple technology generations and their contingencies. As a result of all these recent developments, we are on the verge of telecom’s next evolution. To (eventually) decommission the legacy Circuit-Switch (CS) and move to an all-IP 5G, the steering service needs to be NFV-ready, cloud-native, and support multiple technologies. But most importantly, it needs to be an integral part of a very well-functioning system.

Looking ahead to the future, steering cannot be seen as the standalone service it once was. It needs to be integrated with commercial systems to intelligently recommend and execute network actions that will bring savings and high-quality services. This becomes even more relevant considering that wholesale budgets often remain unchanged. At the same time, roaming managers are expected to make quicker decisions, deliver better financial results every year, and ensure the best roaming experience for their end users.

In our upcoming blogs, we will drill down a little further into some of these intelligent decisions that will automate and simplify the roaming business so that roaming managers can meet their targets more easily. Watch out for those coming out soon.

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