Data roaming the new battleground for mobile firms
Apr 13, 2012 (Bangkok Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Competition in international data roaming is heating up as local mobile operators see flat growth in voice services.
Mobile data usage is surging because of widespread adoption of smartphones and social networking, said Petter Pedersen, senior vice-president for international business of Total Access Communication (DTAC).
The overall international voice and data roaming market is worth around 8 billion baht a year, he said.
Mr Pedersen said data roaming competition began to intensify last year as operators cut tariffs to stimulate usage and offset shrinking voice roaming revenue.
Social network and messaging applications including WhatsApp and Skype are eating into the share of mobile voice and data roaming markets. "Operators need to lower their data roaming fees to compete with it," he said.
Mobile data roaming fees have plunged and are now about 350 baht a day for 25 megabytes of usage, compared to 10,000 baht just a few years ago.
In the first three months of this year, Mr Pedersen said data roaming usage skyrocketed by 650%, a level expected throughout the year. But revenue would be flat due to fierce competition.
To capitalise on the surging demand, DTAC is offering new data roaming packages serving 50 countries. Users no longer need to stick to operators' networks at the destination. Customers can use 25 MB for 350 baht a day, or 500 MB within seven days for 2,599 baht.
"We expect the package will double our data roaming users. Roaming revenue is expected to account for 2-3% of total revenue this year," said Mr Pedersen.
Supoj Mahapan, group general manager for international services with True Corporation, agreed that more people were using data while travelling overseas instead of voice service.
True Move is also offering unlimited data roaming for 333 baht a day in 10 countries. However, Mr Supoj said the company expected its roaming revenue to be flat at 1.6 billion baht this year.
Weerachai Patcharopartwong, vice-president for international service of AIS, said data would be the future driver of international roaming revenue, at 30% growth per year compared to single-digit growth in voice.
AIS's data roaming usage quadrupled in the first quarter. "We expect our data roaming revenue to contribute up to 50% of total roaming revenue this year, up from 30% last year," he said.
AIS also offers unlimited data roaming for 350 baht a day in 20 countries.
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