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Vodafone expands LTE roaming services without premium

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From the summer, Vodafone claims it will offer LTE roaming to more countries than any other mobile operator and it will not charge a premium for such services.

Consumers and business customers travelling overseas will be able to take advantage of LTE mobile services when using their smartphones and tablets in 18 countries worldwide for no more than the cost of existing 3G roaming tariffs such as Vodafone’s pan-European Union daily roaming price plans. Vodafone’s daily roaming proposition now has 11 million registered customers, the company said.

This announcement dovetails nicely with the findings of the Telecoms.com Intelligence Industry Survey 2014 LTE roaming section, sponsored by KPN-owned IPX provider iBasis, in which only around a fifth of respondents strongly believe that mobile operators are justified in charging LTE roaming at a premium to other roaming services.

Price is expected to remain an important competitive differentiator in LTE roaming, although not the most important. We asked respondents to rate a number of competitive differentiators for roaming services on the same one to seven scale (where seven was extremely effective). Of the six options provided, price differentiation was ranked fourth by respondents in total and third by operator respondents.

It was nonetheless rated highly, with 41.4 per cent of respondents (and 44.4 per cent of operator respondents) scoring it six or seven. Judged most effective, and given a six or seven rating by half of respondents, was service continuity. Judged least effective, with a high rating from 25.6 per cent of respondents, was geographical differentiation.

Operators may have to look to more advanced services if they want to command a premium, rather than simply charging more for LTE as a basic connection. Asked which kind of roaming services might justify a premium in future (outside of the EU, where regulatory pressure is intense) operator respondents backed guaranteed QoS for LTE data strongly. This option drew the highest level of support, selected by 61 per cent of respondents, followed by application-specific data (selected by 44.3 per cent) and tiered throughput for LTE data (selected by 37.3 per cent).

There was acceptance that legacy services like SMS and MMS will struggle to continue to command roaming premiums, with just 11.8 per cent and 8.5 per cent of operator respondents selecting these options respectively. Indeed there was widespread agreement that legacy voice and SMS roaming traffic will decline as users become increasingly reliant on IP communications apps while roaming, which offers a potential threat to operator revenues. 47 per cent of respondents and 49.4 per cent of operator respondents ranked their agreement with this statement six or seven.

Vodafone already offers 4G roaming on its own networks in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. Between now and the summer, the carrier will launch 4G roaming in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. In addition, Vodafone customers will be able to use 4G networks of other telecommunications companies in Austria, Belgium, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.

Under its Project Spring £7bn investment programme, Vodafone has fast-tracked its 4G roaming plans to ensure that key holiday destinations are covered in time for the summer break.

The 2014 Telecoms.com Intelligence Global Industry Survey drew responses from more than 2,000 industry professionals, including more than 700 operator representatives. The full report from the survey will be made available in mid-February. You can register to receive the report here.

The 10th annual LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 23rd-26th June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

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  • iBasis


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