According to a recent report by Juniper Research, global mobile roaming data revenue is expected to grow from $8.6 billion this year to $10 billion in 2024. This increase is primarily driven by the rising availability of, and demand for, 5G among international travelers. However, telecom operators need to be careful about charging too much or not advertising fees prominently enough, as customers can easily rely on Wi-Fi to avoid high charges when abroad.
The rapid adoption of 5G could cause users to consume more data unwittingly, which in turn could lead to higher charges. To maintain a balance, operators must consider both covering their own costs and protecting customers from bill shock, while also stimulating usage.
The rise of eSIMs poses another challenge to roaming revenue growth. Juniper Research predicts that the number of eSIM smartphones in use worldwide will increase to 1.5 billion in 2024 and 3.5 billion in 2027. As eSIMs make it easier for travelers to sign up with a local mobile operator or an international roaming provider without the need for a physical SIM card, they can effectively lower or avoid roaming costs altogether.
As eSIM adoption grows, the travel mobility services market is expected to expand, resulting in increased competition and potentially impacting roaming revenue’s upside potential. Operators must then focus not only on fees but also on the range of tariffs, destinations, and the degree of control offered to end-users.
Juniper Research suggests that operators provide travel mobility services to subscribers roaming on their network and offer user-facing digital platforms that enable subscribers to manage their mobile subscriptions easily, including setup, data allowances, and cancellation in real-time.
Meanwhile, eSIM roaming providers such as Nomad, BNESIM, and Holafly already offer international eSIM roaming services to more than a hundred destinations, while app makers like Airalo provide local, regional, and global coverage. These providers offer convenient and cost-effective access to mobile services for travelers.
Telecom operators must adapt to these changing dynamics and develop offerings that cater to the needs of their international customers. Otherwise, they risk losing out to more innovative competitors in the market.