In 2020, the development of demand varied according to the type of roaming service. With regards to roaming telephony usage, a downward trend was observed 2020. However, the proportion of calls with standard tariffs has continued to increase, while the proportion of calls with an optional tariff plan has declined. Swiss consumers again made much larger use of data roaming services than in previous years. The first phase of the Covid-19 crisis did not have a significant impact here. As regards the use of roaming SMS, a consecutive decrease is again observed.
In 2020, roaming calls represented a total of 374.2 million minutes for outgoing calls and 170.2 million minutes for incoming calls. Compared to 2019, these volumes represent a decrease of 5.1% for outgoing calls and a decrease of 12.2% for incoming calls. Overall, the number of call minutes (outgoing and incoming calls combined) fell by 7.4%, whereas it had been rising steadily in previous years (since 2016). The impact of the Covid-19 crisis, which led to a decrease in international travel, was therefore already observed in 2020. The majority of calls were made within the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EU + Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) member states. Calls to Switzerland (standard and optional tariffs) accounted for a significant share of outgoing calls (see figure below). In the rest of the world, calls decreased by 42.3%. This is undoubtedly a consequence of the pandemic and related travel restrictions.
In 2020, the majority of Swiss roaming customers (89.3%) made calls at standard tariffs, i.e. without discounts trough options. The use of a tariff option to lower voice roaming prices has decreased over the last eight years (see figure below), with the annual average falling from 29.7% to 10.7% since 2016. This decline is most likely linked to the increasing popularity of offers that include full or partial international roaming in the EU and EEA in the subscription price. This makes the purchase of an option within the EU and EEA largely unnecessary.
The next charts show the evolution of the volume of incoming and outgoing calls since 2016. All roaming services follow a similar seasonal cycle (see below for SMS and data). The peak is in the third quarter (summer holiday period), while the first and fourth quarters show comparatively lower volumes. However, the anti-Covid measures imposed on Swiss citizens as of March 2020, restricting foreign trips, have changed the usual annual cycle with a very significant drop in volumes in spring (Q2).
SMS and data roaming
In 2020, 72.2 million SMS messages were sent and 9.525 million GB of data were transmitted or downloaded (see figures below). The decrease in the volume of SMS was about 27%, while data services recorded an increase of 29%. It was legitimate to expect a decrease or stagnation in data volume during the first year of the sanitary crisis, but paradoxically it increased (and significantly so), unlike the other services. The volume of SMS messages fell sharply in 2020. Mobile calls, which had been rising sharply since 2016, also fell in 2020. The lockdown caused by the Covid-19 crisis probably led people to make more use of over-the-top services (Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom, etc.), which they then more readily used abroad. SMS and data roaming services are most widely used in the EU and EEA. This is due to the fact that the preferred destinations of the Swiss (Germany, France, Italy and Austria) are located in Europe. The pandemic lead to a low growth in data volumes in the rest of the world (3%).
Last modification 03.08.2021