Interesting Insights from the EU’s Roaming Report

A couple of weeks ago, Heise had a post on the newly published EU roaming report. Via this page you can get to the actual document that indeed has many interesting insights into pricing, cost and use of roaming in the EU before and after roaming charges became a thing of the past in June 2017. The document has 98 pages full of insights and here are the points that I found particularly interesting.

While “Roam Like at Home” means that subscribers no longer have to pay roaming charges, network operators can still charge each other for the exchanged data volumes and voice minutes. This is referred to as the wholesale roaming market. In 2019, operators could still charge each other up to a cap of €4.50 per gigabyte. If 1 GB of data goes one way and 1 GB goes the other way, they would cancel each other out. €4.50 is the maximum price, however and the report says that only small network operators with more outbound than inbound roaming traffic were paying this much for mobile roaming data (page 96). The average price between operators, however, was €1.78 per GB. The report also noted that there wasn’t a huge price difference between operators in different countries belonging to the same parent company and operators belonging to different holdings.

In general, the report differentiates between outbounders and inbounders. Outbounders are countries where more roaming traffic flows to another country than what comes back. Note that the report doesn’t mention individual network operators but only countries. Not surprisingly, the report states that operators in Northern European countries are typically net outbounders, i.e. there is more outbound than inbound traffic, while Southern European operators are usually inbounders.

On average, data traffic generated by roamers in a network was below 3% before 2017 and is now around 6% (page 22 and page 69). Malta is one of the few drastic exceptions. In summer, 60% of the data traffic in the network is generated by roamers.

The biggest surprise in the report for me was that Germany is a net inbound country, i.e. roamers coming to Germany generate more traffic in Germany than German tourists and business people generate abroad. Not by much, but still more inbound traffic. Page 72 states that there’s over 100 Million GB of roaming data traffic in Germany per quarter which would equal 900 TB per day in all networks. Divide that by 3 to get the approximate value for a single network operator. When you do the math this would mean that the average throughput on the roaming interface of each German network operator is around 27 Gbit/s in both directions or around 15 Gbit/s in each direction. Quite a bit!

Another surprise for me was the amount of data roaming traffic vs. home traffic in Austria. Austria is a net inbounder and they have a high inbound to outbound ratio of 80:20 in the winter months. A lot of people seem to like skiing, me included. Despite this, however, roaming data traffic only accounts for 2% of their overall network traffic. Surprising at first, but perhaps not so much as Austrian LTE networks now carry 1/3 of Austria’s overall Internet traffic.

And to end this post, here’s a number on voice calls: On average, 5% of all voice calls are made during roaming.

A fascinating report with a lot of details, highly recommended reading!