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ENISA wants mobes to wander freely between carriers in emergencies

If your network's crocked, another one picks up the load in the national interest

The European flag

The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has floated the idea that all mobile phones should be able to roam to another network within their country of residence, in order to enhance the resilience of mobile networks.

The idea is outlined in a new report, titled ”National Roaming for Resilience: National roaming for mitigating mobile network outages (PDF).

The thinking behind the report is simple: “Every day millions of European citizens rely on mobile telephony for work, social life, but also to contact emergency services. Hence outages of a mobile network can have a severe impact on the economy and on society.”

ENISA's remit is to keep Europe's communications lines open and secure, which makes mobile resilience of interest. The document also says Article 13a of the European Union's (EU's) “legislative framework for electronic communications ... asks EU Member States to ensure security and resilience of electronic communication services and networks”, making a look at resilience for Europe's mobile phones a natural for the organisation.

The document's central idea is that it would be lovely if all EU members had at least some form of roaming, so that subscribers hit by outages could still connect their phones to a network. Roaming could be be regulatory fiat, as is the case in The Netherlands where telcos experiencing a three-day outage have to make other arrangements for customers, or could be as simple as allowing roaming onto whichever carrier can be bothered providing service in remote areas.

The report's nine recommendations also suggest mutual aid agreements so that all of a nation's telcos sign up to the same rules. Prioritising voice and SMS traffic over data is also suggested.

Another recommendation calls for EU members to consider which organisations rely on mobile phone networks for critical communications and get them to the table to consider how to plan for outages. Even machine-to-machine communications sector gets a mention, with a nod to the increasing prevalence of such interaction and a suggestion of fresh risk assessments that model network outages.

This being a pan-European effort, there's a lot more talking to be done before anything gets done. And in some countries nothing needs to be done – they already have intra-country roaming in place. For the rest of the EU, however, it is hoped the document is a conversation-starter. And perhaps one day a conversation-sustainer-at-vital-moments, too. ®

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