By Jonathan Plant, Marketing Manager at Openet

Roaming charges have traditionally been a cash cow for EU operators for many years, with revenues believed to be in the region of €4.7 billion annually.

Yet, this time next year charging for roaming within the 28 EU member states will no longer be allowed.

As a result, roaming revenues are set to fall 28 percent as operators begin to phase out the premiums currently in place for international calls, text and data.

So how can operators stem the falling revenue tide in the next 12 months?

As operators move to embrace digital services and systems, new revenue streams are opening up that could plug this revenue gap.

But they need to focus on winning as large as share of possible of their customers’ digital spend – not just their communications spend.

The good news is that they’ve got many existing assets that can help.

Operators need to start to draw on their strengths; their customer base, their networks and their extensive amounts of customer information, to help deliver more profitable customer engagement.

Operators have an opportunity to develop deeper relationships with their customers through smarter engagement and drive trust, loyalty, upsell opportunities and increase profitability.

The key here is the operator’s real-time visibility on a customer’s behaviour, which they can use as a trigger to drive an individual engagement — everything from a CRM message to a specific upsell of a new offer, including those from content and other service provider partners.

Sponsored data is anticipated to be one service that will benefit consumers, brands and operators alike.

The concept sees mobile customers enjoy “free data”, charged by the operator to the sponsoring company, in exchange for receiving targeted and contextualised advertising.

Content providers will be able to make their offers more appealing to consumers and, as a result, drive more traffic and increase ad revenue.

Operators will also gain from this; effectively acting as the “middle man”, sponsored data will allow network providers to add additional offers for their customers and become a strategic part of the content value chain.

Offering personalised marketing offers that are context aware is another area where operators can differentiate their services and make money now.

They can do this because they have the data needed to trigger these offers and build customer context.

This can include real-time network and usage data coupled with profile data, such as Net Promoter Score and churn propensity score.

Using an offer catalogue, operators can build up a wide range of offers that are triggered by events.

For example, a customer with a low data allowance who regularly uses Facebook and often exceeds their usage threshold may get an offer of 500MB of Facebook usage valid for seven days.

We’ve already seen some good examples of operators forming partnerships with content providers such as Netflix and Spotify.

Most operators are now providing TV, music and content subscriptions with data bundles, and the June 2017 deadline is a good time to take this to the next level.

Operators can leverage the capabilities in their BSS to better package and market their content offering.

For example, using free speed boosts, intelligently offloading specific content to carrier Wi-Fi to avoid bill shock and using contextual intelligence to trigger content offers.

However, to do this, operators need systems in place that enable rapid product development, launch and monetisation.

BSS needs to be able to drive real-time, relevant customer engagement – from upselling a new service to providing a customer notification on a loyalty offer.

CSPs already have the data in their systems – the key is harnessing this data and turning it into relevant and timely intelligence to drive customer engagement.

All operators are aware of the changes that are coming down the line in June 2017, but the ones that have already started their contingency planning will succeed.

And if an operator does succeed, it will almost certainly plug the gap in the reduction of roaming revenues.

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