Guest blogs

Free data roaming is a boon — and not just to your phone bill

Digital Centre Steering Committee guest blog: AMS-IX. Established in the early 1990s as a not-for-profit organisation, AMS-IX (Amsterdam Internet Exchange) is a neutral and independent Internet Exchange based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

If you’ve been on holiday in Europe this summer, you were probably a lot less shocked by your phone bill when you returned. You can thank the EU for that. Earlier this year, new rules capped data roaming charges at just €0.05/MB above your home tariff. And from June next year, all roaming charges within the EU — voice and data — will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

What it means is that a whole lot of people will be using a whole lot more data when they travel. At AMS-IX, we saw a considerable and steady rise in roaming data traffic during the summer since the price cut took effect in May.

It takes specialist interconnection technology — IPX, or Internetwork Packet Exchange — to handle data roaming, but also services such as 4G voice services (VoLTE) and diameter signalling used in secure registration and authentication processes. We’ve been investing heavily in our AMS-IX Inter-IPX platform for some time now and will continue to ramp up in the year ahead.

Rumours go around that IPX could handle data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT), too. Some position it even as a ‘backbone’ of the IoT. Putting our homes and cars and everything under the sun online requires a particularly robust platform. It’s one thing if your phone signal drops out, but if your car relies on data from the other side of the world, losing your connection is not an option.

IPX might be uniquely suited to handle IoT. Estimates vary but there could be up to 50 billion new devices connected to the Internet by 2020. IPX offers the scalability to manage this plus the functionality to handle cross-border traffic. It’s also fully separated from the public Internet, which makes it more secure and safer from hacking.

But, most importantly, IPX keeps you connected by restricting routing to no more than two interconnected IPX providers. This ‘two-hop rule’ means all parties in the chain are responsible for identifying and localising the cause of any problem that could arise — to keep traffic safe and minimise the chances of anything going wrong.

IPX’s high score on quality and security are of particular interest for financial and healthcare applications. And, of course, as roaming charges disappear, quality of service (QoS) is becoming ever more important as a basic differentiator between mobile service providers.

So, as you celebrate freedom from extortionate roaming charges this summer, rest assured that there are plenty more advantages to come — and AMS-IX will be ready and waiting.

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