The global number of roaming subscribers will reach 1.1 billion by 2024; rising from 900 million in 2020, according to Juniper Research. This represents a growth of 28 per cent over the next four years.

The new research, Wholesale Roaming: Emerging Technologies & Market Forecasts 2020-2024, forecasts that the wholesale roaming model will be crucial to mitigating threats from high data traffic generated by emerging technologies, such as 5G and RCS (Rich Communication Services).

Wholesale roaming involves operators agreeing bilateral agreements that secure the use of each other’s networks for subscribers. These agreements include pre-agreed costs and fair usage of voice, SMS and data services whilst roaming.

The research forecasts that existing wholesale roaming agreements will need to be amended in order to accommodate large amounts of data traffic generated by 5G connections.

It urged operators to focus on ensuring that fair usage policies reflect the anticipated increase in cellular traffic, or risk a low quality of user experience on visited networks for mobile subscribers.

RCS is also anticipated to place added pressure on operators that offer roaming services.

Research author Sam Barker said, “By the end of 2020, there will be over 270 million RCS messaging users. In order to retain a high quality user experience, wholesale roaming agreements must be expanded to include RCS or operators risk losing traffic to OTT messaging applications.”

The report also forecasts that operators will increase adoption of the wholesale roaming model due to its ability to rapidly update usage policies and roaming.

By 2024, Juniper Research anticipates that 20 per cent of mobile roaming connections will be attributable to 5G-capable smartphones. Subsequently, it forecasts that wholesale roaming revenue, including voice, messaging and data roaming will reach $41 billion by 2024, rising from $37 billion in 2019.

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