Are service providers ready for the new EU roaming regulations?

The impending EU roaming regulations are due to come into effect from July 2014, when incoming calls will no longer be charged. Although this is an exciting prospect for consumers, it is potentially troublesome for service providers, particularly as the combined pressures from the EU and demanding subscribers are being compounded as networks shift to IP-based 4G/LTE infrastructure.

With the LTE network now relying on new architectures and protocols, service providers are stifled and overwhelmed by ever-evolving government regulations and the pressure on them to implement advanced roaming capabilities while simultaneously managing subscribers’ policies and costs.

If we try to understand what they’re going through, we can see that even before 2G and 3G came onto the scene, enabling roaming required complex supported signalling just for voice and text messages when crossing borders. Now we have embraced 4G, there is a fundamentally different situation all together and even more complexities to consider in meeting the requirements of EU regulations.

These new complexities come into play as the LTE network depends on a packet-based IP architecture using new services and protocols, such as diameter messaging, rather than those used in 2G and 3G. This creates a diverse environment that becomes even harder to manage when dealing with roaming partners and the government regulations.

However, it’s important that service providers don’t shy away from this. They should act quickly to deploy dynamic architectures for LTE roaming solutions that deliver roaming services in a reliable, secure and scalable fashion, while maintaining availability. This will ensure that operators gain capital and operational efficiencies within their business models and put them in a good position to comply with EU regulations by the July 2016 deadline for eliminating roaming charges completely.

Does this spell the end of consumer worries about the next bill when using mobile devices abroad? It could well do, but achieving this depends on service providers using intelligent roaming solutions that can deal with the increased demands. The EU regulations aren’t going away and they have been a long-time-coming so it waits to be seen how service providers will rise to the challenge and remain competitive.