British government to test mobile emergency alerts

British government to test mobile emergency alerts

The government of UK is preparing to carry out tests of an emergency alert service that broadcasts messages to mobile phones.

As part of the plan, the government will conduct three tests in specific parts of Yorkshire, Suffolk and Glasgow, and see how various alerting technologies work as well as the public’s reaction to them.

Three of the four main mobile networks — O2, Vodafone and EE — all agreed to participate in the test that will see these messages being sent to mobile phones in the test areas by SMS in parts of Suffolk and Glasgow, and by SMS and Cell Broadcasting in parts of Yorkshire. Overall, some 50,000 people are expected to receive these messages.

“Cell broadcast” is different than SMS though it too sends text-based message. Using this technology, the mobile network is split into “cells,” ranging in size depending where you are in the country. During this process, cells can be selected and a message broadcast to every active handset within it.

However, it’s important to note that cell broadcast operates on a different channel to voice and SMS, and therefore does not contribute to network congestion. What’s more, it works without requiring any personal data, including telephone numbers as the message is sent to all handsets in the area.

The ability to warn and inform the public is part of the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) of a statutory duty for category 1 responders to maintain arrangements to warn and inform the public in times of emergency.

[Image from BroadBlast]

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