More smartphone users expect mobile Internet access when they travel abroad, it's a growing trend. Juniper Research has valued mobile network operator revenues generated from data roaming at $42 billion by 2018.
This data usage will represent 47 percent of all global mobile roaming revenue, compared to an estimated 36 percent in 2013.
Juniper notes that these revenues will be driven by rapidly increasing data usage, as operator migration towards 4G will induce subscribers to take advantage of faster broadband networks, while reductions in roaming charges will spur more frequent and heavier usage.
Why 4G LTE will Drive the Roaming Business
The new Juniper study found that with LTE deployments increasing and set to grow exponentially in all markets around the world, it will continue to fuel the explosion of roaming data usage.
However, they also note that in order to achieve the full potential of LTE roaming, successful business models towards end-users and between mobile network operators are needed.
Roaming agreements for 4G LTE are in its initial stages and all mobile network service providers are currently looking to partner with the tier-one operators in developing the right wholesale model.
"Operators need to sort out the right economics to encourage more usage at a value to the end users in order to avoid revenue erosion. They need to also provide services that are both relevant and cost effective to LTE roamers," said Nitin Bhas, senior analyst at Juniper Research.
The EU Regulatory Impact on Roaming Revenue
Meanwhile, Juniper found that if the proposal to end roaming charges in the EU gets the European Parliament approval, then this would significantly impact on roaming revenue levels.
Under this scenario, the report forecasts that European voice, SMS and data revenues would decline by just over 20 percent in 2016. However, the actual volume of usage and number of active roamers will continue to rise over the forecast period.
Unsurprisingly, the EU government proposal for such a regulation is witnessing fierce opposition from leading mobile network operators in the region -- including Vodafone, Orange and Telefónica.