Feds and Wireless Carriers Launch Mobile EAS in New York

WASHINGTON and NEW YORK: Smartphone users in the Big Apple will be among the first in the nation to receive emergency alerts on their handsets by the end of this year. The new Personal Localized Alerting Network will deliver geographically targeted text messages to GPS-enabled phones. It will be used for just three types of alerts: Presidential, life-threatening and AMBER Alerts. Participating carriers can opt out of all but the Presidential alerts.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are on board in New York, where a late-2011 launch was announced today at the World Trade Center. Congress in 2006 directed the Federal Communications Commission to set a deadline for implementing a mobile emergency warning system. The FCC established set an April 2012 end date for participating carriers to launch the service. It will be up and running six months prior in New York.

The system “ensures that emergency alerts will not get stalled by user congestion, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services,” the FCC said. The network allows carriers to push emergency alerts of “90 characters or less” to specific cell towers. The FCC said 90 percent of New York wireless subscribers “who have a PLAN-capable mobile device” will be able to receive alerts by the end of the year. It did not define “PLAN-capable mobile devices.”

The mobile alert system was created to complement the Emergency Alert System that leverages the broadcast TV and radio infrastructure. That system is in the process of being updated to handle a Common Alerting Protocol from notifying agencies. Wireless providers are not required to implement PLAN.

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