- The next stage in the ‘we did it first’ 5G races may be roaming.
- Three global 5G leaders - Swisscom, Elisa and SK Telecom - have been quick to ink the first 5G specific roaming arrangements
- More roaming deals and announcements are sure to follow
Swisscom, Finland’s Elisa and South Korea’s SK Telecom are looking to solidify their 5G winners credentials by pitching in together to become the first 5G operators to announce 5G roaming agreements (this is, after all, the one 5G first that you can’t win on your own).
So how many Finns do we think will want to enjoy 5G roaming in South Korea or vice versa? How many Swiss the same?
According to Swisscom, South Korea is the world leader in 5G expansion: it currently has over 62,000 antennas and approximately 1.64 million active 5G users already live and active. Meanwhile Finland and Switzerland lead the field in Europe, albeit with considerably fewer active users.
The tourist/holiday traffic between Finland and South Korea must be fairly negligible. The holiday traffic betwixt Finland and Switzerland might count for more I suppose, maybe in the skiing season?
But I’m forgetting about Finland’s oversized contingent of telecoms professionals making business trips to South Korea - the world’s most advanced 5G market.
In fact enabling 5G roaming today is a statement of intent that may sway users of all three operators to sign up with the expectation that the roaming they may require in the future will be available when and where they want it.
“We want to offer our customers the best network – both in Switzerland and abroad. So we are proud to be one of the world’s first providers to offer 5G abroad. We will continue to expand 5G availability abroad with additional partners,” says Dirk Wierzbitzki, Head of Product and Marketing and member of the Swisscom Group Executive Board.
It’s hard to see that there is much of a technical hurdle to overcome when adding 5G to the roaming options. They’re more about ensuring roaming accounting arrangements are in place that factor higher speeds, greater data volumes, and appropriate performance metrics (such as low latency) that 5G (only non-standalone NR at this stage of course) is likely to demand.
A lot of its customers communicate abroad without paying roaming charges, points out Swisscom. As things stand they can use their 4G smartphones in EU countries in the same way as they do in Switzerland without incurring any additional costs. Thanks to the agreement with Elisa, this now includes 5G roaming in Finland.
Also on cue is BICS, which claims to be the world’s leading roaming ‘enabler’. Its global IPX network is responsible for providing the 5G data roaming service between Swisscom and SK Telecom.
BICs claims it’s already been experiencing a surge in demand for data roaming, which it says increased by 95%, pre 5G, in 2018, indicating a voracious subscriber appetite for seamless international data connectivity.
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