Emergency Broadcast System extended to mobile phones

The government-mandated broadcast system that alerts viewers and listeners to emergencies will soon be available on mobile telephones.

Alcatel-Lucent has developed a Broadcast Message Center (BMC) software suite to help wireless carriers comply with new federal emergency-alert standards and help them generate new revenue streams through location-based advertising.

With the BMC, service providers can send targeted government-agency text alerts to mobile users in an affected location, as part of the FCC’s Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) that must be operational by April 2012. All mobile phones would get such alerts, although users could opt out of receiving information on weather, traffic accidents or Amber Alerts.

Using the new software, government agencies can send emergency alert information — everything from road closures to hurricanes and tornadoes — to mobile phone users in the form of text messages that can warn users of local, state or national emergencies.

Text alerts include a dedicated vibration cadence and audio attention signal for wireless customers with hearing or vision disabilities. The technology enables service providers to manage message and delivery priorities, scheduling and retransmission needs, which is key in crisis situations.

“With the public increasingly relying on cell phones, it becomes mission critical for service providers to be able to share critical, time-sensitive information over these devices during times of crisis,” said Morgan Wright, vice president Global Mission Critical Communication Solutions for Alcatel-Lucent.

Federal agencies including the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA would have access to the BMC software features. The company envisions each mobile provider needing to install two message exchange centers to ensure reliability.

Initially, the messages will be sent out as texts, but Alcatel said they will eventually support multimedia formats as well. The technology supports CDMA, GSM and UMTS networks and has been tested in California and Florida.

Many carriers are expected to test their CMAS systems during the first quarter of 2011, and most Tier 1 providers are trying to have the alerting systems operational during the third quarter of 2011, when Alcatel-Lucent plans to have a software module available that will support LTE networks as well.