This article first appeared in Vanilla Plus magazine:

If someone has told you ‘Silence is Golden’ before, there’s a strong chance you were about to say something that could have got you in trouble. But for mobile network operators (MNOs), says Oyku Mengenli, director of Roaming at Mobileum, ‘silence’ is causing its own troubles.

I’m referring to the segment of mobile users called ‘Silent Roamers’, and they’re presenting huge challenges for MNOs competing in today’s ever-changing telecoms landscape. Silent Roamers are subscribers who typically switch off data usage when travelling outside their home network. They’re essentially off the grid while away, creating an expensive problem for operators in terms of lost roaming revenue.

Travellers still fear ‘bill shock’

So, what’s pushing these silent roamers away from using roaming services? A new market study into Roaming Analytics by Juniper Research, commissioned by Mobileum, has identified the high price of roaming as a main deflector for this group (i.e. ‘bill shock’). And the number of users who fall into the silent roamer segment is not small by any means. In fact, the research estimates that up to 67% of travellers were considered Silent Roamers.

The study also points out that Silent Roamers have an array of alternative services at their disposal to choose from while travelling, such as using a specialised travel SIM or only connecting to Wi-Fi and using Voice over IP (VoIP) services.

The research also found that consumers increasingly substitute social media interaction for voice and SMS conversations while travelling. Along with the increased prevalence of free public Wi-Fi in Europe and beyond, MNOs are competing to win over travellers who have a multitude of options at their disposal to avoid costly roaming charges.

These factors are creating significant hurdles as operators search for new roaming revenue opportunities, something vitally important to operators right now, as the research reveals that mobile subscriber growth rates are slowing and operator margins continue to decline on a global basis.

How can operators prevent revenue leakage from Silent Roamers?

With potential customers staying offline and not utilising roaming services or purchasing roaming bundles, there is a huge loss of potential income for MNOs right now. But, what can be done to bring this silent majority of travellers back online and roaming again? We believe part of the solution comes from the use of Big Data.

Big Data solutions can be leveraged to help operators identify silent roaming subscribers through advanced analytics and machine learning. However, knowing how to use that data to address business challenges presents a huge challenge in its own right.

That’s why MNOs need to use a broadly-focused platform that can properly analyse the data on their customers’ habits. For example, with the right system in place, operators can identify and segment travellers based on factors including historical spend, device type, how often they travel, data usage at home and length of contract.

Oyku Mengenli

Advances in predictive analytics are bringing silent roamers back online

With the use of advanced predictive analytics capabilities, operators can predict the future travel habits of customers and offer them more contextual roaming packages, increasing the overall appeal of roaming services.

By tempting potential Silent Roamers with targeted roaming packs and bundles catered specifically to their travel habits ahead of their trips, operators can begin to realise the revenue opportunities they have previously been missing out on.

Big Data solutions can also help generate roaming campaigns, to engage travellers with products and services during their trips, as well as to help achieve business goals. An operator has the flexibility to set campaign marks – like increasing conversion rates – all while offering a more interactive experience for subscribers.

Though difficult as it presents a sea of change in how MNOs operate, significant benefits await with the right approach. By reducing the Silent Roamer population using a business model predicated on Big Data analytics, operators now have a ‘golden’ opportunity to maximise their future revenues.

The author of this blog is Oyku Mengenli, director of Roaming at Mobileum