EU roaming charges are changing
Following the news that Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of eradicating mobile roaming charges for subscribers across Europe, the telecoms industry braces itself for a new era in international communications.
Since the EU began the introduction of legislation to reduce roaming costs in 2007, the mobile industry landscape has changed completely, from one dominated by voice and messaging to an ecosystem revolving around data usage. This evolution has also had a profound impact on the demand for roaming services, with reliance on data usage leading to demand for constant connectivity.
This has been nourished by the ease of accessibility offered by smartphones and roaming bundles offered by major operators in most major European markets – many of which offer LTE roaming while abroad. The quality and speed of data connectivity is a vital element in encouraging growth. In some markets such as the UK, where all major service providers offer LTE, operators are now offering domestic upgrades from 3G at no extra charge. And it’s no surprise that consumers expect the same level of service while outside of their home market.
How will the EU roaming regulations impact this? Not that significantly.
Many of the operator bundles already in place are priced to encourage usage at the same level when business and consumer customers leave the country. Those paying standard roaming tariffs are likely to be encouraged to increase the amount of data used while abroad, carrying a margin for both the visiting and subscriber networks.
Although service providers are now relying on a decreased margin per unit, ARPU is actually likely to sustain due to the explosion in traffic volumes. This is in addition to an anticipated decrease in ‘silent roamers’ – subscribers who turn off cellular services when they are outside of their home country.
The availability of high-speed roaming services and price reductions seen in recent years have already caused a dramatic increase in data roaming volumes, further lowering the cost will cause an even more drastic rise.
LTE roaming to become a worldwide opportunity
The European summer holiday season sees an annual rise in roaming traffic from holiday-makers venturing further afield, armed with their mobile devices. Since 2014, double-digit monthly growth in LTE roaming traffic has been experienced by carriers worldwide, illustrating this increased demand from for high-speed data is prevalent all over the world.
Nearly all consumers in developed markets across the globe now have access to domestic LTE, and with this widespread availability comes the expectation and demand for similar data speeds when users travel abroad – just like we have seen in Europe.
The depletion of EU roaming fees will impact roaming prices outside of Europe, as operators see the increased volumes that can be achieved introducing value bundles for subscribers. These can be achieved through competitive commercial agreements with selected partners and can provide an excellent value-add for subscribers.
Many forward-thinking operators have already arranged new LTE roaming agreements and the relevant technical interconnections to make this a reality for their subscribers, and are reaping the rewards through both revenues and loyalty.
Opening up the roaming market
Outside of traditional operators, the new legislation also provides great potential to usher in a new era of innovation from new parties in the mobile ecosystem. We are likely to witness the launch of new “roaming only” pan-EU MVNOs, largely focused on the machine-to-machine and data-centric market, which are predicted to be a huge market driver in the coming years. This dynamic new marketplace will further fuel the profitability of roaming services and stimulate cross-border data usage.
Reduced costs also open up the international market to app-based OTT players and small virtual mobile operators (which use a host network to operate in their home country to appeal to niche markets) to begin to provide their subscribers with cross-border services.
As these new players are introduced to the ecosystem, traditional operators will need to collaborate with them to ensure ubiquitous services are offered to all subscribers. The end result is a truly connected continent, where new entrants and competitive incumbents both work to increase mobile usage and ensure complete customer satisfaction.
With LTE providing the backbone for the next generation of communications, this can become a reality and eradicate those who chose to ‘silently roam’ on cost grounds. This boost in roaming traffic will offset the loss operators will initially feel once the ban is set in June 2017 and over the next two years, it is up to operators to capitalise on monetising data roaming where they can, and then once the new cost structure is in place, it will be the subscribers turn to thrive and roam.
Daniel Kurgan is CEO of wholesale telecoms carrier BICS
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”