The increase from 4.3 million now will be driven by the proliferation of standalone (5G SA) networks post pandemic.
A report by Juniper Research has found that the number of international 5G roaming subscribers will reach 147 million by 2025, up from 4.3 million in 2021 – a growth rate of 3,300% over the next four years.
It predicts that standalone 5G architectures, which leverage core network technologies and high levels of virtualisation, will be instrumental in allowing operators to create appealing 5G roaming packages for subscribers.
The study also predicts that the higher degree of software-defined network applications in standalone 5G networks will create greater efficiencies in routing of voice and data roaming traffic, reducing the investment operators need to offer 5G roaming services.
The new study, Mobile Roaming: Emerging Opportunities, Regional Analysis & Market Forecasts 2021-2025, argues that non-standalone 5G architectures, which leverage the same core network technologies as 4G, will not be sufficient for operators to launch cost-effective international roaming services over 5G networks.
Don't do SA roaming
Despite the global pandemic causing substantial decreases in international roaming traffic, the research urges operators not to create non-standalone 5G roaming agreements and focus on basing 5G roaming agreements on standalone architecture immediately.
Research author Scarlett Woodford noted, "The current decrease in international roaming traffic must not be used as a reason to neglect future roaming activities. Given that roaming agreements can take between 12 and 18 months to be established, operators must focus on standalone 5G roaming agreements now, in preparation for the recovery of the market.’
The research identified operators in North America and the Far East as leading in 5G roaming agreements.
By 2025, it anticipates that over 35% of 5G roaming subscribers will be attributable to these two regions. However, the research warns that these early agreements must be extended to include standalone 5G roaming capabilities, as the prevalence of non-standalone networks diminish.