The COVID-19 pandemic has caused most countries to restrict professional and personal travel, resulting in a staggering drop in the number of international roaming subscribers for mobile technology, according to a new study from Juniper Research.
The market research firm found that mobile roaming subscribers dropped by 73% in 2020 to 243 million globally. Furthermore, it will take until 2024 to exceed 2019 levels, reaching 918 million subscribers by 2024, after a prolonged recovery from the long-term impacts of COVID-19.
Juniper said that North America will be the first to recover from the impacts on the roaming market and will account for 23% of global roaming revenue by 2025 as border restrictions are lifted and travel demand returns to normal levels.
North America’s mobile roaming recovery will be aided by the adoption of 5G services with operators able to increase roaming revenue and Juniper urges operators to focus on expanding 5G roaming in 2021 to reach this revenue growth.
The U.K. will account for 11% of mobile roaming subscribers in Europe by 2025, growing from 8% in 2020. However, U.K.-based operators are facing pressure to form individual bilateral agreements with operators to guarantee continued roaming for subscribers due to Brexit.
“Any decisions by U.K. operators to reintroduce roaming changes would negatively affect customer satisfaction,” said Scarlett Woodford, researcher at Juniper. “Operators must approach changes to their roaming policies with caution, in order to avoid an increase in the number of silent roamers and accompanying lost revenue.”
The full research can be found in Juniper’s “Mobile Roaming: The Journey to Recovery” report.