ENISA Pushes National Roaming Ideas

The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has proposed that mobile phones be able to use alternative networks – from competing operators – within their country of residence to enhance the resilience of mobile networks.

The agency recently published a report outlining its ideas, titled National Roaming for Resilience: National roaming for mitigating mobile network outages (PDF).

Every day millions of European citizens rely on mobile telephony. Outages of a mobile network can have a severe impact on the economy and on society. Disruptions of service are quite common: last year, EU Member States reported 79 significant incidents to ENISA and the European Commission. Most of these had an impact on mobile telephony and mobile Internet access.

ENISA refers to Article 13a of the EU's legislative framework for electronic communications which "asks EU member states to ensure security and resilience of electronic communication services and networks”.

If all EU member states had at least some form of national roaming subscribers hit by outages could still connect their phones to a network. National roaming could be mandatory, as is the case in The Netherlands where telecoms operators experiencing a three-day outage have to make other arrangements for customers. It could also be as simple as allowing roaming onto whichever carrier provides service in remote areas.

The report comes with eight recommendations for EU member states:

  • Discuss portfolio of solutions offered - In this way they can use these options as a base to tailor their own solution taking into consideration their own legal constrains and needs and agreements among operators.
  • Promote National Roaming awareness – Each member state should work with interested parties such as mobile operators on National roaming solutions awareness in case of outages.
  • Identify clear thresholds in case of activation - In case one of the above solutions is selected, ENISA invites the competent authority to define clear thresholds both in users affected and time limit in order to facilitate the emergency response.
  • Prioritize voice and SMS - Another important recommendation includes services prioritization. In case of activation of national roaming as a resilience solution not all types of traffic should be transferred at one time on the other operator in order to avoid congestion.
  • Favor open Wi-Fi as alternative solution for data connectivity – data connectivity should be transferred to available wireless networks.
  • Establish a M2M inventory - Considering the current trend and growth of M2M technologies regarding smart cities and public utilities, it is auspicated that every member state starts to develop with providers an inventory of all these SIMs per service and provider in order to assess the possible impact and define a comprehensive continuity plan in case of outage.
  • Be prepared for an eventual mobile network outage: member states should consider a comprehensive national risk assessment framework that takes into account not only single provider’s business continuity plans but envisions also cascading effects on the population and critical services as government and public transport for example.
  • Identify key people within CI services: key people and key services should be identified and emergency preparedness plan should be defined accordingly.

The report also comes with examples of implementations of national roaming in other countries and regions of the world, such as India, Australia, the US, and the Caribbean.

The goal of the publication is to help NRAs understand if and how roaming at national level could be used to improve resilience of mobile communication networks and services in case of large outages and start the discussion with the market players around this topic.

Source: Enisa, The Register

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