back to article ENISA wants mobes to wander freely between carriers in emergencies

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: …


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  1. Denarius Silver badge

    regrettably, not a hope

    too sensible. <sarcasm>Also too hard for those computer thingies to sort out charging. </sarcasm>

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge


    I thought if you called 112 your phone sets the call up as an emergency call and uses another network if it can't find your own anyway. Maybe 999 as well but I'm not so sure.

  3. tentimes

    Sound idea

    Failover for your mobile - it's just common sense.

    I think it will happen as it will be popular and likely to attract votes. The EU is desperate to start doing stuff for people that they will appreciate, to counteract the current feeling of malaise of most EU Joe Publics.

    I think this one will fly.

  4. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Emergency OK. Otherwise not.

    A 999 call should roam on any provider, I have a feeling it already does. Emergency services should have their calls prioritised and be able to roam on any network.

    Joe Sixpack shouldn't, there should just be regulatory and customer penalties for service providers who fail to provide a service.

    As anyone in IT will understand, if everything is a P1 you don't understand priorities.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Emergency OK. Otherwise not.

      There is a good piece on wikip

      Basically, a SIM-less GSM/3G phone will attempt calls to pre-programmed emergency numbers; although not all networks will accept connections from such handsets. So whilst possible, it may take time for the phone to find a network willing to carry it's call, although network locked handsets may only attempt connections to the preferred network. A SIM provides additional emergency numbers and facilitates network connection.

      Whilst the MNO's have a role to play in accepting calls, it would seem that a fundamental part of the problem is down to handset settings and the action it takes when unable to place a call, namely drop into 'emergency calls only' roam mode. It would seem that what is being requested for emergency calls is the establishment of a mandatory conceptual VMNO (!), namely an 'emergency' VMNO who doesn't own any network and with whom a handset automatically connects with, regardless of SIM status and network locking, when an emergency number is dialled.

      Whilst this looks good from an individual callers' perspective, I suspect it would rapidly compound the cell and network congestion that occurs around major incidents, such as the London bombings.

      I suspect the real value of this would be to the wider emergency services community, hence the solution is to create a real 'Emergency' VMNO with whom such bodies can obtain suitably configured SIMs and handsets. This would facilitate the granting of priority access to emergency services over normal public traffic, however, this still runs into the problem which bedevils us today ensuring that all 'emergency services' personnel have the relevant SIM's (or SIM update) in their phones, so that they can be identified to the network...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Emergency OK. Otherwise not.

      I think everyone should benefit from home roaming.

      But regarding emergency services, it's not just callling 999 that's the problem.

      I provide on call IT support for an emergency services organisation, but if I'm somewhere outside of vodafone's coverage they might struggle to get hold of me!

      Sure, in an major incident they could prioritise important people's calls over the public (via a special sim card), but they can't give me a mobile that roams onto any uk network.

      Of course, people on call operationally would probably have an airwave terminal as well as their mobile.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's flip this into the real world...

    Mobile company A has a super duper network

    Mobile company B has a shit one.

    Does B invest to make it's network better or does it roam onto A's network (we know the answer here)? Resulting in a degrading of Mobile A's service while improving B's service.

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      Re: Let's flip this into the real world...

      It is probably not as bad idea, as long as the mobile company A takes the cut. Thus allowing them to further expand the network or improve its capacity (or quality). This might lead to company B turning into "virtual operator" and A into "network operator".

      Not saying this is a good idea, either, since there is such a thing as "unintended consequences". For example, how would the fees structure look like in company B and what will be the competitive landscape, if all the company's B calls went through, and into pockets, of company A?

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Let's flip this into the real world...

      You missed:

      Mobile company A bills Moible company B "shiloads" for the unauthorised roaming, puts them out of business and acquires their hardware/sites/customers for a song - then proceeds to build up a hedgemony.

      It's not that different a scenario from that practiced by AT&T in the 1930s.

  6. simmondp

    This could solve both coverage and reliability issues. If every-time there is no signal from your provider your phone is allowed to roam and ** your provider ** picks up the ** full cost ** of you having to roam to another provider, then market forces will quickly ensure coverage in those black-spots and also ensure a reliable network.

    Or is this too simple?

  7. Aitor 1 Silver badge


    So your point is we are always going to be in a state of emergency?

    The problem with this is network overload. I can't agree with this idea because of that.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And if you interlink systems that were previously independent, you potentially create a whole raft of new failure-modes that bring the whole lot crashing down.

  9. M7S

    "prioritise voice and sms over data"

    Just a sec, has anyone thought about the telemedicine kit that we're all supposed to be fitting in our ambulances now? If everytime there's network congestion or a failure the people needing our help most will the ones really suffering from denial of service. Accolc isn't going to be triggered for stuff like this (and it's pretty useless for working level emergency services anyway)

    And don't you dare suggest data over Airwave.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "prioritise voice and sms over data"

      "If everytime there's network congestion or a failure the people needing our help most will the ones really suffering from denial of service"

      During the London bombings, one or more of the networks were commandeered for emergency services use. Whilst that would be sensible from the point of view of supporting the emergency services, it does illustrate that their dedicated networks (that we also pay for) were/are unfit for purpose.

      And in that case you've either got no coverage if all the networks are commandeered, or the proposed cascade of users from the commandeered network would saturate the other networks (assuming in a major emeregency they are already overloaded).

      As far as I can see this proposal sounds far better than it is. In reality the bandwidth of the mobile networks isn't wide enough anyway in emergencies, so we're talking about either a specific tech failure by one network, or a fairly gentle sort of emergency.

  10. Roland6 Silver badge

    Roaming enhancing the resilience of mobile networks?

    Can't see how effectively enabling roaming in home region will enhance the resilience of mobile networks, but I do see that it could enhance the reliability of connection for a handset.

    But the idea of improving the reliability of mobile communications by binding the various networks together is an interesting concept. Because whilst at a high-level it would seem the roaming approach would enable multiple paths for calls from a handset across the mobile infrastructure, digging down and we soon find lots of single points of failure that are tricky to get around, unless we practically rebuild the entire mobile network infrastructure, potentially resulting in all operators being VMNO's, ie. a bit like the various train operating companies.

  11. peterkwells

    It's a shame that whilst the report has references to documents about network infrastructure sharing it then doesn't use those documents to inform the report on the value of national roaming given the infrastructure sharing. The operators are keen on infrastructure sharing, it brings the costs down and means they can offer good prices, but it as at the expense of the resilience. 3/10 for ENISA....

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