Swisscom reveals increased usage by subscribers on roaming-focused tariff

Swisscom published data that suggests the effects of plans to abolish roaming fees in the European Union (EU) may not be as severe on operators' bottom lines as initially feared.

The operator announced that close to 1 million people have signed up to its Natel Infinity Plus tariff some nine months after launching the package. In a statement, Swisscom explained that the tariff all-but abolishes roaming fees in the EU, and that 90 per cent of the subscribers on the package now face no additional charges when roaming in the region. The remaining 10 per cent were charged additional fees for exceeding usage limits.

Crucially, Swisscom revealed that its Natel Infinity Plus subscribers use four-times more data than those on its Natel Infinity plan, send three-times more SMS, and make twice the number of phone calls.

The inference is that the increased usage goes some way to offsetting the loss of lucrative roaming revenues, which addresses one of the major concerns expressed when the European Commission (EC) announced it would begin the process of abolishing in-region roaming fees completely from mid-2017.

Plans announced by the EC in October 2015 will see mobile users travelling within the EU pay the same prices for their services as they do in their domestic market. The first step towards the abolition is due to happen in April 2016, when restrictions on the roaming fees operators can charge come into force.

From April, operators will only be able to add up to €0.05 ($0.05) per minute to the cost of phone calls, €0.02 on the price of an SMS, and €0.05 per MB of data used.

The EC's decision prompted concerns over operators' 'fair use' policies, with consumer groups noting that telecoms companies may place limits on the service available to frequent travellers. There is also provision for operators to add a surcharge to roaming services, if the cost of supplying service to roaming customers proves higher than the income operators generate.

Juniper Research last month predicted that the EC's decision would result in a 28 per cent drop in operators' roaming revenues in 2017. However, the research company forecast that operators would not increase their fees to cover the drop in income due to fierce competition in several European markets.

For more:
- see this Swisscom announcement

Related articles:
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Juniper Research predicts 28% drop in EU roaming revenues in 2017
Arcep seeks end to France's mobile roaming and network-sharing deals
Operators under pressure to innovate as EC signals end of roaming fees
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