Fed eyes controversial UK disaster alert tech

Fed eyes controversial UK disaster alert tech

Also ponies up $10 million for first responder mobile broadband service.

Credit: Dreamstime

The federal government will tap into cell broadcasting tech for emergencies with warnings and alerts that has been recently criticised by mobile phone users in the UK.

Dubbed the National Messaging System (NMS), the government is set to roll out “state of the art technology” that taps into existing mobile phones by late 2024 to provide alerts and warnings during emergencies.

The technology is currently in use in other countries overseas, including the UK via the Three mobile network, which last week conducted a 10 second test that, in some cases, consisted of an alarm and a message appearing on phones on 4G and 5G networks.

According to the national broadcaster of the UK, the BBC, some users received the alert earlier or later than the scheduled time, while others did not receive the alert at all.

In response to the errors, a Three spokesperson said to the BBC that it was "aware that a number of customers have not received the test alert. We're working closely with the government to understand why and ensure it doesn't happen when the system is in use".

Despite this, the government claimed the NMS will “substantially improve Australia’s ability to send prioritised warnings from trusted sources, to prevent the loss of life, injury, damage to property and mitigate the spread of misinformation during disasters”.

“This new technology will also allow governments to send messages in English and a second language, in order to provide accurate, official information to multicultural communities, helping them to understand the risks and make appropriate decisions about their personal safety,” the government said.

Additionally, the government will also deploy a “national public awareness campaign” in parallel to the rollout, although what form this will take is yet to be seen.

In addition, $10.1 million was also committed to create a taskforce to deliver a Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) capability. This, the government claimed, will establish a mobile broadband service for public safety agencies and first responders with allegedly fast and secure voice, video and data communications.

The PSMB has been under development for some time, with its origins reaching back to 2016 following the establishment of a committee of Commonwealth, state and territory officials. Then, in 2021, TPG and Optus were chosen to trial the PSMB capability, while a year later in 2022 the NSW Telco Authority looked to the telecommunications market to help with the rollout.

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