Citing a poll conducted by an independent agency, mobile operator 3 Denmark said that 71 percent of Danes switch off their mobile phones when traveling in foreign countries, in order to avoid roaming fees. According to the poll, 28 percent of respondents miss using their mobile phones, and 12 percent miss hearing news from Denmark. Meanwhile, 4.1 percent stated that they do not feel restricted, because they use 3 Denmark’s 3LikeHome service (3LikeHome provides voice calls, texts and surfing in 47 countries as if under the domestic service, though there is a 10 GB internet cap.). The operator said that 55 percent of respondents considered that they felt limited by not using their phone abroad, and 17 percent said that not using their phone was the most challenging aspect of foreign travel.
With roaming surcharges set to end within the EU in June 2017, the concerns of Danes with regard to travel in most of Europe, at least, will soon be allayed. However, the issue obviously persists with regard to other countries in which Danes may wish to travel for business or pleasure, and we believe that the findings of this survey are quite instructive for mobile operators worldwide.
Considering that the reaction of the vast majority of Danish mobile customers to roaming surcharges is simply to turn off their devices, we can surmise that there is a great deal of lost revenue in the Danish mobile marketplace, as well as in the markets in which Danes travel. And considering that Denmark is an affluent country, the situation is likely to be quite a bit worse in other, less wealthy economies.
Absent moves from national regulators and regional trans-national entities to reduce or eliminate roaming surcharges (as is the case in some areas outside Europe, such as East Africa), are some things mobile operators can do to pick up some of the revenue that is being left on the table. “Roam-like-home” packages, like 3 Denmark’s 3LikeHome are the most obvious and direct solutions. At least these offer the advantage of a flat fee (which may not be very cheap) paid in advance for the privilege of not being charged by the minute or the megabyte, and at best they can be very affordable, even if offered on a temporary promotional basis.
In general, encouraging customers to use their devices when outside their home country is good for operators, and offering discounted roaming will stimulate this use. Keeping roaming unaffordable helps neither the customer nor the operator.