International Operators Steering Roaming Traffic Away From 2G Only Networks

Over the last several months, there has been a dramatic shift with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) steering roaming traffic away from some visited networks that rely on 2G for voice. In just the last month, Syniverse was able to verify that three European MNOs and one Oceania MNO steered on average 50% of their subscribers away from a major visited network relying on 2G fallback. That is a significant swing to occur in just the period of one month! In this article, we will look into the factors behind the 2G network phase out.

While falling back to 2G for voice may not be an issue for machine-to-machine devices such as home security or connected car, when it comes to human roaming traffic, there could be several reasons why relying on this decades old standard for voice fallback is creating a bad roaming experience.

Voice quality certainly could be a contributing factor. Since 2G spectrum is limited, it stands to reason that if you already have a large number of IoT devices consuming 2G, that suddenly moving all your human roaming traffic to compete in that limited spectrum could lead to congestion. In some markets, voice is still king but in today’s always connected world, I suspect the reason behind unhappy roamers goes much deeper than just voice quality. Allow me to provide a simple use case to demonstrate…

After a long international flight, you finally reach your destination. You go through customs, get your bag, and use your smartphone to get an Uber or Lyft. You see your driver is only 5 minutes away, so you call your spouse to let them know you’ve arrived safely. You notice during your conversation that your driver has been at the same intersection for the last 5 minutes which is a bit strange, but you assume it is just due to normal rush hour traffic. You continue to talk to your spouse while waiting, wondering what is taking the driver so long and finally hang up your voice call. Several seconds later you notice on your app that your Uber or Lyft driver had come and gone while you were on the phone and had subsequently canceled the route. Frustrated, you get a more expensive taxi, start browsing email, and your boss calls you. The same experience repeats itself. You are at a loss as to what is happening but blame this on slow data speeds, only to see a billboard advertising the network you are roaming on boasting on their superior 5G service.

What I am describing here is being able to support simultaneous voice and data. This was a key differentiator in the advent of data roaming that came about with 3G networks. While the lack of simultaneous voice and data was a slight annoyance fifteen years ago, it is unthinkable now. This (in my humble opinion) is likely why we are seeing so many human roamers being steered away from 2G networks. It is simply a very poor user experience from subscribers that demand their data services to always be on, and always be fast enough to perform their functions.

Creating Better User Experiences with Evolved Mobility

What operators really need is a solution that will allow them to retire their 3G networks yet maintain the same user experience to serve inbound roamers — without disrupting their data experience. Evolved Mobility allows roamers with VoLTE-enabled devices from roaming partners who have not yet launched VoLTE on their network, to be able to roam into these 3G sunsetted environments — without having to rely on keeping an antiquated 2G network in place. This allows the visited network to offer a premium user experience their roaming subscribers expect while maintaining important wholesale agreements and avoiding the huge shift in steering that is currently being observed.

Click here to learn more about solutions developed to help operators maintain inbound roaming revenues, wholesale agreements, and positive user experiences by supporting both the visited and home operator through a 3G-to-VoLTE roaming solution.



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