Telenor Data Roaming Report 2020: coronavirus heavily affects roaming

Telenor’s annual data roaming report gives a summary of Hungarian mobile users’ foreign mobile internet usage habits. Since favourable EU roaming regulations were put in place in 2017, Telenor customers have generated a data traffic of more than 5.6 million gigabytes in roaming zone 1 including the EU[1]. Roaming data usage has increased both inside and outside Europe in this period. The coronavirus outbreak, however, caused a major disruption in the growth trend. 

Coronavirus restrictions resulted in an increase of roughly 30% in domestic mobile Internet traffic compared to the pre-virus period supported also by free or attractively priced mobile Internet access provided in response to the increased needs. At the same time, with travel restrictions imposed, the roaming data traffic of Hungarian mobile users abroad has dropped significantly. Based on Telenor’s report, it was down to virtually zero in seasonal destinations but it has heavily declined also in countries typically having a balanced roaming traffic throughout the year. s increased both inside and outside Europe in this period. The coronavirus outbreak, however, caused a major disruption in the growth trend.


Figure 1: Data traffic in roaming zone 1 – the dotted line shows traffic expected based on the trend of previous periods

Within the European Union and countries of roaming zone 1, mobile users don’t have to pay a roaming fee since June 2017. In these countries, Hungarian customers can use their subscriptions in line with the pricing level of their Hungarian tariffs which means that they can enjoy far more favourable terms for data, voice and SMS services than before. As a result, mobile internet usage grew very popular among Hungarians visiting those countries in the first year of the change (between 1 June 2017 and 31 May 2018), reflected also by traffic figures soaring continuously year by year in Telenor’s annual roaming reports. In 2020, however, the coronavirus not only undermined annual organic growth, but it has also driven foreign data usage to a level below that of previous years. With travel restrictions eased, the roaming traffic of both seasonal destinations and frequently visited countries has started to edge its way up in May and June, but it is still below its past levels. 

EU-roaming toplist year-on-year and during the lockdown 

A change in the latest annual traffic figures (July 2019 to June 2020) compared to the previous period (July 2018 to June 2019) was that Croatia and Holland were two ranks up and one rank up, while France and Slovakia were one rank down and two ranks down on the list, respectively. In the lockdown period (March to end of  May this year), the TOP10 European roaming list had major changes. During the travel restrictions, highest-traffic countries included Belgium and the Czech Republic, and Holland has moved significantly up on the list. In this period, the roaming traffic generated in Spain and Croatia wasn’t even enough to secure these countries a place in the TOP10.


Figure 2: TOP10 in roaming zone 1 – the countries where Telenor customers generated the highest roaming traffic 

Roaming outside Europe 

In countries outside roaming zone 1 (roaming zones 2[2] and 3), roaming traffic has shown a similar growth trend in recent years as in Europe. Based on the data evaluated starting from June 2016, these countries had a seasonal peak in the summer and in early autumn. In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak heavily affected travel to these distant countries resulting in a drop of roaming usage. March and April saw the lowest data traffic in roaming zones 2 and 3 for a long time equalling a drop of over 90% compared to previous levels. The dotted line on the graph shows traffic expected based on the trend of previous periods excluding the coronavirus impact. 


Figure 3: Data traffic in roaming zones 2 and 3 – the dotted line shows traffic expected based on the trend of previous periods 

Global roaming toplist year-on-year and during the lockdown 

The list of roaming zones 2 and 3 was topped by the United States for the past 2 years. This year’s roaming traffic, however, already shows the impact of coronavirus restrictions. Toplist members had 5 to 10% less traffic than last year despite the fact that the coronavirus affected only one quarter of the period under survey. On the TOP10 list, Serbia and Egypt were one rank up each, while China and the UAE were one rank down each. During the lockdown between March and May, Ukraine, Israel and Indonesia had a higher roaming traffic compared to their annual level.


Figure 4: TOP10 in roaming zones 2 and 3 – countries where Telenor customers generated the highest roaming traffic ​​​​​​​


The favourable EU regulations of 2017 resulted in unbroken roaming growth in roaming zone 1. The growth trend, higher mobile internet demand and rising roaming usage also increased traffic in roaming zones 2 and 3. The coronavirus had a major impact on roaming traffic with 4 months out of the 12 surveyed months affected. As a result, the survey narrowed down to the lockdown had new countries in the TOP10 including Belgium and the Czech Republic in the EU and Indonesia outside the EU. Holland and Ukraine had a significantly higher ranking during the lockdown than before which means that Telenor customers used roaming more in these countries.

Further interesting details 

1.    Seasonality of roaming irrespective of the coronavirus 

In the EU/roaming zone 1, some countries have permanent roaming users – that is, people who visit the given countries throughout the year presumably for work-related reasons. Other countries have a high level of seasonality, e.g. busy summer months followed by eventless winter periods. The below graph, for example, shows the roaming traffic of Germany and Croatia between July 2016 and June 2020. While Germany has equally distributed growth, the Croatian graph shows high peaks in the summer. 


Figure 5: Seasonality of roaming traffic based on the example of Germany and Croatia 

2.    Toplist of foreign countries roaming in Telenor’s network in the 2020 lockdown period in Hungary 

The TOP10 list of foreign customers using roaming services in Hungary includes exclusively visitors from European countries with the United Kingdom taking the lead. Of non-European countries, South Korea and the USA rank 16th and 17th on the list. The TOP10 list includes the following countries in descending order: United Kingdom, Romania, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, Italy, Sweden and Slovenia. ​​​​​​​
[1] Includes Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (North Cyprus belongs to roaming zone 2), Czech Republic, Denmark, United Kingdom, Estonia, Finland, French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Holland, Croatia, Ireland, Iceland, Canary Islands, Poland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Germany, Norway, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia

 [2]For the countries of roaming zones 2 and 3, please click here.