Roaming wars, round four – Kroes shocked at her own research

 In the increasingly humourous roaming war of words between Commissioner Neelie Kroes and Vodafone, a new chapter has opened, ahead of MWC.

The War of Propaganda.

To bring you fully up to date, let us review the battle so far.

First move, Kroes announces the end of roaming charges in mid 2014.

Second move, Vodafone visits Kroes.

Third move, Kroes says ‘did I say 2014? Silly me, I meant, er…how is 2017 looking?’

With LTE being rolled out like a security blanket across the world and the justification for charging customers for roaming is now at the ridiculous level, the European Commission has published a shocking report. They surveyed 28,000 European citizens on the roaming subject. 98 percent of this group said they limit their online usage while abroad. 47 percent said they would never use data while travelling.

BillingViews surveyed two teenagers last summer and got the very same results, for the price of a McDonalds and two Shakes. Mind you, we got the extrapolation that European operators were missing 300 million potential customers slightly wrong. We simply extrapolated every teenager, ever business traveller, um, everyone who travels and came to roughly the same figure.

What made our day was the report that Commissioner Kroes was “honestly shocked by these figures.” Then said, somehow keeping a straight face, “It shows that we have to finish the job and eliminate roaming charges.” Honestly, the toast and marmalade went down the wrong way and the laughing/coughing fit was serious enough for even the office spaniel to look slightly alarmed. So, she is going to finish the job she decided not to finish this year, then? Just so that we are clear on that.

As we know, and as Ms Kroes’ spokesman was quick to point out during Round Three, Vodafone “are not against roaming alliances, they just want a monopoly on them.”

So what is Vodafone’s current stance on this, ahead of the Final Offensive, possibly next week?

Well, they now have 4G roaming agreements in 18 countries, which spookily will be available by mid 2014, the same time frame that Ms Kroes was going to announce the end of roaming charges – and head to the south of France. Vodafone, in an ‘of course, we were always planning to do this’ kind of way has added that there will be no premium over 3G services. And better still, they look great to the industry because a fifth of respondents to the Telecoms.com survey think that it is justifiable to charge a premium for LTE. And the respondents? Telecoms operatives.

So the battle will rage and wane and rage again for a while. In the meantime let us hope that operators get their real-time marketing act together and roaming data packs become normal. Let us also hope that the analysts who will be using those great big data analytics solutions will come up with simple, better ideas than basically throttling data usage (up 70 percent in the last quarter of 2013). Now they will be able to see what roaming customers are doing, using partners such as BICS, and offer them value based products and services.

What will the end game be? Without doubt roaming charges will disappear – the question is when and how operators will make up the money.

Also without doubt Neelie Kroes will end up as Vodafone’s Chief Regulatory Officer – after all, the gap between love and hate is wafer thin.

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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