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Rise of the Global Mobile Data Roaming Empire

Juniper Research forecasts that mobile data roaming revenues will grow by 21 percent per year between 2012 and 2017, reaching over $35 billion in 2017 -- driven by an increasing number of active roamers using data services while abroad.

However, Juniper notes that the number of people not actively using any data services still fear the unknown cost of mobile network provider fees, as this continues to be markedly higher when compared to potential voice roamers.

Silent roamers, as they are called, exercise caution or do not use voice and data services while roaming and represent a significant non-user segment.

Powered by the proliferation in smartphones and a dramatic growth in data usage, data roaming is being seen as a key growth driver for mobile network operators -- albeit with cost-effective packages coupled with subscriber control over usage.

The Juniper market study found that the majority of mobile customers were using voice services when roaming abroad, but this activity offered network operators little opportunity to add value or enhance services.

Data roaming, on the other hand, provided operators with the opportunity to convert non-data roamers to become active data roamers by the introduction of data service bundles and other attractive roaming plans.

The Juniper market study report observed that as data roaming revenues grow, and instant messaging apps proliferate, SMS roaming adoption and revenue growth will remain modest, relative to data and voice revenues.

"As data roaming costs are further reduced and smartphone owners find Over-the-Top services -- such as eBuddy and Whatsapp -- a cheaper alternative, the average spend on SMS roaming will decline over the forecast period," said Nitin Bhas, senior analyst at Juniper Research.

Other key findings from the market study include:
  • Total mobile roaming revenues to exceed $80 billion by 2017, compared to over $46 billion this year.
  • Western Europe will account for the highest proportion of the global mobile data roaming revenue.

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