2G / 3G Sunset and the Roaming Challenge

According to data published by the GSMA, 27 operators in 16 European countries will not offer any 2G or 3G-based voice services in their mobile networks starting in January 2026. This means operators have less than 3 years to prepare and warm up for this new era in mobile communication.

Establishing a robust VoLTE implementation in their networks is not the only challenge for mobile operators. They also have to offer VoLTE services to all their inbound roamers. Likewise, they need to guarantee VoLTE roaming services to their outbound roamers in all roaming destinations without 2G/3G service availability.

Statista predicts travel will exceed pre-COVID levels in 2023. Tourist trips are on the rise, and even business travel is taking off again. It’s safe to assume roaming traffic will follow suit, especially as users are more dependent than ever on staying connected.

Having VoLTE roaming agreements in place is the first challenge mobile operators must face. The risks of not having them ready when the 2G/3G sunset happens are evident:

• Roaming partners will select other networks in the same territory that support VoLTE.
• Customers visiting foreign destinations will not enjoy voice services anymore, and mobile operators will lose roaming revenues.
• Mobile operators will risk high churn, losing out to national competitors that offer VoLTE roaming.

Even if VoLTE roaming is in place with the roaming partners, additional challenges remain:

• How to guarantee that VoLTE roaming is continuously working, considering frequent changes in the network elements involved in a VoLTE roaming call?
• Does the quality of VoLTE calls always meet the expected levels? Network upgrades and changed signaling and user plane protocol flows could lead to poor service quality for certain subscriber profiles, roaming destinations, or call scenarios.
• As most operators have implemented S8 Home Routing, all voice user plane traffic will be passed to the home network first, which might cause voice quality problems due to huge delays.

Proactive monitoring of VoLTE roaming performance and customer experience is, therefore, a must for every network operator. As long as 2G or 3G networks are still alive, customers will not complain or suffer from bad VoLTE service when they can still fall back to the legacy networks to execute voice calls.

Without monitoring VoLTE roaming performance frequently, mobile operators might misleadingly feel that voice services are running well. In the future, when the 2G/3G sunset effectively takes place, they might be knocked out of the skies when customers are stuck without quality voice services.

Using the Global Service Enabler (GSE) platform, SEGRON will soon start the first VoLTE roaming performance campaign for selected networks. The aim is to understand the current status of VoLTE roaming quality, measuring further KPIs with a true customer experience focus and using real, unrooted smartphones.

Don’t wait until the 2G/3G sunset to understand the true performance of your VoLTE roaming quality. Get in touch, and let’s discuss how you can partner with SEGRON and use the GSE to proactively verify your VoLTE roaming performance.