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Cell Broadcast-Based Public Warning Systems – An Effective Solution for Emergency Alerts

5G Americas Publishes ‘Public Warning Systems in the Americas’ Report

BELLEVUE, Wash. – July 24, 2018 – Cell broadcast-based Public Warning Systems (PWS) is currently the most effective technical solution for large group emergency notifications above other alerting methods in the Americas according to a new report from 5G Americas, the industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas. 5G Americas announced their publication of Public Warning Systems in the Americas whitepaper that elaborates on the benefits of cell broadcast-based Public Warning Systems that have been specified by the Third Generation Partnership Program (3GPP) and standardized by multiple Standards Development Organizations throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

The paper by 5G Americas confirms that it is more beneficial for the general public to use cell broadcast-based PWS as opposed to point-to-point alerting methods such as Short Message Service (SMS) and Over-the-Top (OTT) applications to provide wireless emergency alerts. Cell broadcast-based emergency alert communication has advantages over for point-to-point methods including:

  • There are typically no significant delivery delays when attempting to deliver messages to a large number of recipients in a short period of time due to the underlying broadcast technology
  • There is no cell broadcast subscription required for receiving emergency alerts via cell broadcast technology
  • Messages are broadcast to all devices within a specific alert area, so if a user roams into a cell site in an alert area, the user will receive the alert
  • Smartphone subscribers do not require a data services subscription with their wireless operator in order for their device to receive an emergency alert via cell broadcast

Chris Pearson, President, 5G Americas commented, “Successful emergency warning communications systems are essential in today’s society when the impact of monumental disasters can be lessened by proper advance notification to people. Several countries in the Americas region have deployed and are actively working towards developing cell broadcast-based public warning systems, built upon the industry-wide 3GPP standards, which offers the best technical option for providing a safety net in the event of emergencies.”  

Key challenges for SMS and OTT smartphone applications in providing emergency alerts include: possible delivery delays when attempting to provide messages to a large number of recipients in a short period of time; alerts are addressed to phone numbers in a chosen cell site area rather than users in the cell site alert area meaning not all users will receive alerts; SMS could possibly be spoofed by hackers; smartphone users must have a data service subscriptions to receive alert notifications via the cellular network on smartphone apps. Cell broadcast-based systems are effective in most all the challenged areas for SMS and OTT apps meaning any user in the geo-targeted area will typically be able to receive the alert. 

“There is a tremendous benefit for countries to deploy the cell broadcast-based warning system so that any user can roam to any country and be able to receive wireless emergency alerts in a time-sensitive manner,” noted Jose Otero, Director of Latin America and the Caribbean, 5G Americas and also the author of this paper. “There remain some challenges to overcome in order to promote seamless international roaming such as the use of different applications in countries, different languages, and even the use of different ringtones, alert banners and character sets.”

The goal of the 5G Americas whitepaper is to inform and educate vendors, operators and regulatory authorities of the benefits associated with the cell broadcast-based system, explain and compare PWS and other alert systems in the Americas and describe the international roaming support for PWS. The paper will provide an understanding of varied emergency alert systems currently in use throughout the Americas, including details on emergency alert systems in many countries in the Caribbean and Latin America as well as Canada and the U.S.

Public Warning Systems in the Americas was written by a working group at 5G Americas under the leadership of Orlett Pearson of Nokia and Peter Musgrove of AT&T as well as representatives from member companies of 5G Americas who participated in the development of this whitepaper. Public Warning Systems in the Americas is available for free download on the 5G Americas website.


About 5G Americas: The Voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas

5G Americas is an industry trade organization composed of leading telecommunications service providers and manufacturers. The organization’s mission is to advocate for and foster the advancement and full capabilities of LTE wireless technologies and their evolution to 5G, throughout the ecosystem’s networks, services, applications and wirelessly connected devices in the Americas. 5G Americas is invested in developing a connected wireless community while leading 5G development for all the Americas. 5G Americas is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. More information is available at or Twitter @5GAmericas.

5G Americas’ Board of Governors members include: AT&T, Cable & Wireless, Cisco, CommScope, Ericsson, Intel, Kathrein, Mavenir, Nokia, Qualcomm Incorporated, Samsung, Shaw Communications Inc., Sprint, T-Mobile US, Inc., Telefónica and WOM.


5G Americas
Vicki Livingston
+1 414 688 9000

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