Headlines: September 23rd, 2013

Tests to ensure that the public can receive alerts to their mobile phone in the event of an emergency are being launched in Yorkshire, Suffolk and Glasgow.

The government and three mobile phone companies O2, Vodafone and EE, will conduct separate tests later this year to look at a how different technologies work and how the public react when they receive an emergency alert to their phone.

Messages will be 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. In total approximately 50,000 people across the 3 areas may receive the messages.

The message itself will make clear that it is only a test and recipients will be invited to help in evaluating how well the tests worked and how they felt about receiving messages in this way.

The technology to allow messages to be delivered in a geographic area has been available for some. The mobile phone network is split into ‘cells’ with a mast at the centre, these range in size depending where you are in the country. During cell broadcasting, cells can be selected and a message broadcast to every active handset within it.

Cell broadcast operates on a different channel to voice and SMS (texts) and therefore does not suffer from nor contribute to network congestion. Personal data such as telephone numbers or user data are not required as the message is sent to all handsets in the area.

Members of the public in the test areas who would like to be involved in the follow-up research into these tests can get further information by emailing public.alert@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk