Juniper Research has found that the number of international roaming subscribers dropped by 73% to 243 million globally in 2020; caused by travel restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It predicts that mobile roaming subscriber numbers will take until 2024 to exceed 2019 levels; reaching 918 million by 2024, as the travel industry embarks on a prolonged recovery from the long-term impacts of the pandemic.
North America to lead roaming recovery
The new research, Mobile Roaming: Emerging Opportunities, Regional Analysis & Market Forecasts 2021-2025, predicts that operators in North America will be amongst the first to recover from the impacts of the pandemic on the roaming market. It found that the region will account for 23% of global roaming revenue by 2025, as border restrictions are lifted and demand for travel returns to normal levels.
The study also anticipates that North America’s recovery will be aided by the region’s early adoption of 5G services, with operators able to increase roaming revenue through the provision of advanced functionality to subscribers. In response, the research urges operators to focus on expanding 5G roaming agreements in 2021 to capitalise on this revenue growth in the future.
Brexit marks uncertain future for UK roamers
The research forecasts that the UK will account for 11% of mobile roaming subscribers in Europe by 2025, increasing from 8% in 2020; showing that the revenue opportunity for operators is growing. It found accordingly that UK-based operators are now facing pressure to form individual bilateral agreements with operators in Europe to guarantee continued inclusive roaming for UK subscribers.
Research author Scarlett Woodford notea: “Any decisions by UK operators to reintroduce roaming changes would negatively affect customer satisfaction. Operators must approach changes to their roaming policies with caution, in order to avoid an increase in the number of silent roamers and accompanying lost revenue.”