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by James Kirby, CSG SVP & head of EMEA business

It’s safe to say that well over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all very familiar with our homes (for some, maybe too familiar). Many people across the globe are eager to leave the confines of their homes and interact with others face-to-face. However, fluctuating infection rates and region-by-region travel restrictions will have a profound impact on travel, and inevitably affect a wide range of industries in the process.

Global travel expectations may have changed, but one aspect remains: the importance of mobile connectivity. As tourists and businesspeople visit different locales, they need wireless access for more than just ordering a car or looking at a restaurant’s menu.

In this era, travellers need immediate access to information to stay abreast of changing travel advisories, government proclamations and even contact tracing. Connectivity is now essential—otherwise, travellers risk being ill-informed or even stranded far away from home. Relying on a café’s Wi-Fi for access to crucial information won’t suffice.

While many in the travel industry face unique challenges ahead, mobile operators can play a critical role by ensuring safe, high-quality access for their subscribers while roaming. There is a massive opportunity to provide value by offering connectivity, so let’s look at how operators can best keep roamers connected while traveling.

Find the potential 
COVID-19 restrictions differ widely across the globe. For example, some countries conduct comprehensive contact tracing while others do not trace cases at all. However, the need for access to data while roaming is universal. Operators should invest time in identifying where the revenue opportunities present the most potential for them globally.

Ensure quality of service
Operators should consider implementing local breakouts, which means providing the closest access point to the user, to ensure the necessary data speed and quality of service can keep roamers adequately connected. Experimenting with regional breakouts in the short term could act as a steppingstone to fuller implementation down the road.

Don’t forget about 5G 
No discussion about the telecom industry could go without a mention of 5G. There is a clear opportunity for operators to gain a competitive advantage through the combination of 5G radio and local breakout. Group networks can use this approach to keep their subscribers within the group while visited networks can provide roamers with cheaper rates and superior service.

Move toward touchless transactions
The pandemic has exposed an essential truth—successful transactions can happen with zero physical touchpoints. Operators should plan to automate their subscriber interactions and strive to make them as touchless as possible moving forward. Through partnerships with retailers, financial service providers and others, operators can enable secure, real-time methods of interacting with end customers. For example, one provider utilised our solution to automatically contact its subscribers upon return from overseas travel, to alert them of quarantine information, latest infection numbers, and lockdown status.

Getting started
Operators can use solutions like CSG Retail Roaming Management to turn low-usage and silent roamers into active mobile data users with an engaging and customized roaming experience. This provides roamers superior choice, more insight and greater control by enabling them to seamlessly manage their roaming experience in real-time. For example, we helped a customer increase its data roaming traffic by detecting and targeting silent roamers with value-led promotions.

With fits and starts, we have already seen the return of travel. However, it’s clear that the pandemic will continue to affect global mobility for the foreseeable future. Operators can play a major role in improving the travel experience by providing reliable access to information to travellers, even while roaming.

By delivering wireless connectivity and services in a still-socially distant world, operators can help travellers start to roam outside their homes.

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