Lessons Learned from Wholesale Roaming Throughout the Pandemic: Expect the Unexpected and React Accordingly

For 2020, initially-forecasted roaming volumes and revenue predictions likely remained off-target by a significant clip at various points in time throughout the year.

As the industry’s largest clearing house, Syniverse has actively provided its customers with analytical insights about the fluctuations in global roaming traffic. Using our proprietary data, analytics, and BI reporting tools, we’ve seen regional differences as the pandemic’s impact has affected various areas of the globe in disparate ways. We’ve witnessed severe declines in roaming activity, and in some cases, even as much as 75% year-over-year. Moreover, after a steep drop throughout the entire year of 2020, that same trend of decreased roaming activity continued to shift downward even further.

While this isn’t necessarily surprising, it does raise a larger question for long-term consideration: how many consecutive quarters of unfavorable roaming volumes and revenues can our industry sustain before upward growth signals an initial sign of recovery in the right direction? We attempted to answer that question by analyzing our most recent data points that provide insight into more favorable volumes on the horizon. Here’s what we’re seeing:

We are nearly halfway through 2021 and notice that the roaming volumes for the first quarter of 2021 are trending close to the first quarter of 2019, nearly one full year prior to the start of the pandemic.

As per the latest IATA/Tourism Economics study, international air travel may not recover to 2019 levels before 2024.

In the most optimistic scenario, by June 2021, travel passenger numbers will be expected to recover globally to 71% of their 2019 levels (or 53% for international and 84% for domestic flights).

A more pessimistic scenario, however, foresees only a 49% recovery (26% for international and 66% for domestic).

We must use these insights and the newly gathered experiences to change the way we do business. As for those lessons learned? We now know that we must expect the unexpected. With that mindset, we know that customers will continue to require tools that help them become more agile in managing events that impact their business, and to the best of our ability, utilize these insights when applicable to mitigate circumstances similar to these moving forward.

At Syniverse, our Wholesale Deal Management application is now being used more than ever, while continuing to prove its value to customers year-over-year. It has assisted them in re-evaluating and renegotiating their IOT discounts running for 2020, reviewing their 2020 budgets, and forecasting and preparing their 2021 and 2022 budgets by considering the best- and worst-case scenarios, including many of which have been influenced by the pandemic, which has now set a precedent for what’s possible regarding how roaming volumes could be impacted in the future.

Regardless, we are looking forward to continuing to set our customers up for success throughout the remainder of the year and beyond. Whatever unforeseen surprises any year might bring, collectively, we and our customers will be prepared and will react swiftly. However, using the available insights and real-time data dashboards to make informed roaming decisions, you can too.

Magali Lapraille is a Product Manager at Syniverse. In her current role, she is responsible for managing wholesale roaming deals and optimizing costs of wholesale roaming Inter-operator Tariffs (IOTs) on behalf of Syniverse’s MNO, MVNO and Interco providers.

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