European regulation has become something of a poster child for legislators around the world with the overall character of regulation heavily influenced by the EU experience. This replication has manifested itself in the increasingly resolute attitude regulators are taking to roaming regulation around the globe.

In this atmosphere it has become increasingly important for operators to tackle regulatory challenges before they are tackled by others. Operators should adapt to the evolving roaming environment and seek to proactively tackle regulation and in this way avoid legislation. This is a less painful strategy to adopt than resistance to regulation when the horse has effectively already bolted.

One of the most important areas operators should tackle as a matter of urgency is bill shock and in particular data bill shock.  Bill shock may only relate to lost revenue now but its long term implications are the potential failure of data roaming as users experience its toxic legacy; data roaming becoming associated with being ripped-off. The legacy of bill shock is fair more serious than the bill shock event itself leaving a perception that must be expunged and which can take a customer lifetime to rectify.  In these circumstances the minimum operators should consider is implementing cut-off protocols activated when predefined thresholds are reached. In the European Union legislation enshrines this practice but operators in other regions would be well advised to adopt a similar approach before legislators become involved.

Overzealous regulators are more likely to react in a knee-jerk manner when stories of bill shock are common and press coverage disseminates the problem to the wider public. The likelihood of overzealous regulation increases exponentially with data roaming based on the greater risk of bill shock due to cost.

The aim of any proactive action by the operator therefore is to avoid regulatory involvement circumventing any populist legislation before it can be enacted.  The issue of data roaming will only increase in importance as data services diversify and increase in popularity, smartphones proliferate and application stores flourish.

From the perspective of the regulator it is not always the best idea to resort to direct legislative action. In some cases, a less intrusive approach is required for example when the market is fragile, new, evolving or in a volatile state. In all instances detailed analysis of market factors rather than knee-jerk reaction to what others are doing is the best approach to take.

As the various players involved in roaming move forward toward the data empowered network it is important the considerations discussed here are acted upon, if they are not the market could miss out on a substantial opportunity and one that transcends national boundaries.

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