TRB: Wireless providers ready to launch emergency messaging system

Written by  //  November 9, 2011  //  Telecommunications/Technology  //  No comments

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Amber Alerts, now available via text messaging, could also be sent through the CMAS network. (Credit: Wikipedia)

The island’s five wireless carriers will be ready to implement the Commercial Mobile Alert System in April, making it possible for them to send simultaneous messages to all of their customers on the island related to any emergency situation.

So said Telecommunications Regulatory Board President Sandra Torres, who met with company representatives Tuesday. The system will go live in 2012, she said.

“We have been meeting and working with this initiative for several months to prevent a repeat of what happened last time, when companies could not send text messages to their customers at the same time,” she said, referring to a problem providers faced during a drill earlier this year. “With this system we will all be informed as soon as the situation occurs.”

Through the CMAS, carriers will issue warnings and instructions to citizens to help them through emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or fires, among others. Agencies such as the National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be tied into the alert system, so they can issue their respective warnings and instructions.

In October 2008, the Federal Communications Commission issued a series of orders adopting requirements for wireless carriers launching a CMAS that, among other things, entails network programming and infrastructure changes.

Meanwhile, the FCC noted that subscribers would receive the alerts through their CMAS-ready handsets, which also prompted several local wireless carriers to raise a flag in April 2011, when the drill took place. At the time, a number of companies noted that to benefit from the new emergency alerts system, customers would likely have to change their existing phones.

That could pose a challenge, given that there are more than 3 million active wireless handsets split between AT&T, Claro, T-Mobile, Sprint and Open Mobile.

“Puerto Rico is very vulnerable and because everybody has a wireless phone,” the measure being implemented is necessary, Torres said.

“I am very pleased with the commitment all telecom companies have shown to comply with the established [implementation] term. Their commitment will result in more informed citizens. I’m sure this new system will work,” she noted.

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