Wi-Fi Offers Operators Clear Route for Data Roaming Monetisation

An online consumer survey commissioned by MACH, provider of cloud-based managed communication services, has demonstrated that operators stand to benefit from a large untapped market in data roaming simply by employing Wi-Fi.

The online research, carried out by YouGov, has shown that 24 per cent of smartphone and tablet users have never accessed mobile data when abroad. Of those that have, 45 per cent have not used 3G at all, and 43% prefer instead to connect over paid for Wi-Fi.

Lokdeep Singh, Chief Technology Officer, MACH, commented: “These results demonstrate that Wi-Fi is a key access technology for mobile data when abroad. When roaming subscribers move to Wi-Fi, the operator effectively loses sight of them, and therefore misses out on the ability to sell further services to the customer. Operators should look today at how they can successfully market new Wi-Fi offerings, both to gain market share of existing Wi-Fi users, and to address the untapped market of smartphone and tablet owners who are currently not using data services when roaming.”

When asked why they prefer Wi-Fi over 3G when abroad, 35 per cent of Wi-Fi roamers cited a wish to avoid bill shock as their prime motivator, with 33 percent claiming cost benefits. 19 per cent meanwhile stated that they prefer Wi-Fi because it is faster than 3G for data downloads. Finally, 68 per cent of smartphone/tablet users who have used either device while abroad, claimed they would be more likely to access Wi-Fi for data roaming if their mobile operator provided them with Wi-Fi-based roaming services (i.e. Wi-Fi usage was billed directly to their bill/ account) for use when abroad and at a reasonable rate.

Singh continued: “These are interesting results. If operators can provide a seamless experience for the user to log onto Wi-Fi and also integrate billing into their overall service capability, then their addressable market can be significantly expanded. It is also interesting that for a subscriber, control of costs is as much of a concern as the costs themselves. Consumers feel more in control of their costs with Wi-Fi: it is not about just knowing that Wi-Fi is cheaper, it is also about knowing that they will only spend a set amount and not go over it accidently. Moreover, as 19 per cent of respondents prefer the speed of Wi-Fi, there is an untapped market here for operators that can be differentiated on speed and not just price.”

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