I recently got back from Mobile World Congress Shanghai, and just as with the main Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona this year, what a week the Shanghai event was.
Mobile has exploded over the last few years in China and Asia Pacific, which has more than half the world’s mobile subscribers, 2.7 billion, according to the GSMA, in a region extending from China to India to Australia. And the way I’ve been able to witness the growth of Mobile World Congress Shanghai has been one more sign of this fast-moving market.
Over four days at the show, which attracted 67,000 attendees, we had an opportunity to meet with a number of customers, check out some of the newest products on the exhibition floor, and catch fascinating discussions on hot topics like 5G, cybersecurity, and the internet of things. We also sponsored the GSMA members cocktail reception, where we hosted over 125 operators, technology companies and other mobile players. It was an evening of some amazing conversations.
The biggest highlight for me, though, was the opportunity to participate in one of the conference’s major sessions, the Network Evolution Summit, where I took part in a panel titled Affordable Network Evolution. The panel explored how the networks of the future will not only require the implementation of radically new technologies, but a host of new processes, skills, and relationships as well.
At this session and in separate customer meetings and media briefings, I shared some of Syniverse’s latest insights in this area. In particular, LTE is growing globally, and growing fast, and in few other places in the world is it expected to grow more quickly than in Asia Pacific. Syniverse examined some of the ramifications of this in a study on LTE roaming patterns we released this year, and the findings revealed some important implications for the development of LTE in Asia Pacific.
Our study analyzed the regular course, or “trade winds,” of global roaming traffic from across Syniverse’s customer base of more than 1,000 mobile operators, and it divided the traffic according to six regions: Asia Pacific; India; the Middle East and Africa; Europe; North America (categorized as the U.S. and Canada); and Latin America.
The study showed that while international roaming routes carry some traffic, a major part of the trade winds of inter-regional traffic exchange takes place within the Americas, to and from North America and Latin America. The biggest findings were these:
- Only 42 percent of inter-regional data roaming taking place around the globe is LTE, while non-LTE roaming traffic represents 58 percent.
- In Asia Pacific, a region including some of the world’s most advanced mobile networks, total outbound LTE data roaming traffic volume is only 26 percent.
- In sum, LTE traffic from Asia Pacific makes up just 6 percent of all data traffic globally.
Overall, our study revealed that as far as global LTE roaming, the tipping point hasn’t occurred yet, and, consequently, providing LTE roaming can be a critical differentiator for operators. Specifically, enabling LTE roaming is essential for operators in Asia Pacific to be able to capture revenue from 4G, and, later, 5G. As mobile users in this region demand more rich experiences, operators need to prioritize LTE roaming, directly linking the value that the operator plays in that experience. For this to be addressed in this region, our data indicates that operators need to develop a full-scale strategy for integrating IPX and the versatile, secure network backbone that IPX provides for accelerating LTE networks.
Asia Pacific will soon see a rapid phase of mobile development with unprecedented demands for rich and high-speed mobile experiences. We look forward to using insights like our LTE roaming study findings to help mobile companies enable this future.
Mary Clark is a former Chief Corporate Relations Officer and Chief of Staff at Syniverse.