European regulation has become somewhat of the poster child for legislators around the world. The overall character of regulation has been heavily influenced by the EU experience, which is being seen in the increasingly resolute attitude regulators are taking to roaming regulation around the world.
In this atmosphere it has become increasingly important for operators to tackle regulatory challenges before they are tackled by others. Operators should adapt to the evolving roaming environment and seek to proactively tackle regulation and in this way avoid legislation. This is a less painful strategy to adopt than outright resistance.
One of the most important areas operators should tackle as a matter of priority is bill shock, and in particular bill shock in relation to data roaming. Bill shock equals lost revenue now and the potential failure of data roaming in the future as users experience its toxic legacy; data becoming associated with being ripped-off. It is fair to say that bill shock takes a moment to occur and a customer life time to rectify. The minimum action operators should consider is the implementation of cut-off protocols activated when predefined thresholds are reached. In the European Union legislation enshrines this practice but operators in other regions would be well advised to adopt a similar approach before legislators become involved.
Overzealous regulators are more likely to react in a knee-jerk manner when stories of bill shock proliferate and are more likely to become involved in data roaming regulation based on the greater risk of bill shock. The aim of any proactive action by the operator therefore is to avoid this involvement, circumventing any populist legislation enacted by the regulator. If operators do not adequately tackle bill shock there is a risk that competitive factors will be ignored by regulators in favor of populist knee-jerk reactions. Moreover the issue of data roaming and regulation will only become more important as data services diversify and increase in popularity, smartphones proliferate and application stores flourish.
From the perspective of the regulator it is not always best to resort to direct legislative action. In some cases, a less intrusive approach is required for example when the market is fragile, new, evolving or in a volatile state. In all instances detailed analysis of market factors rather than a knee-jerk reaction to what others are doing is the best approach to take.
As the various players involved in roaming move forward toward the data empowered network it is important the considerations discussed are acted upon. If they are not the market could miss out on a substantial opportunity and one that transcends national boundaries
Paul is a senior analyst in operator strategies at Informa Telecoms and Media. For more information, visit www.informatandm.com/, or follow Paul on Twitter @PaulMerry1.