Cell Broadcast : A Life saving Utility

When a freight train derailment near Minot, North Dakota, in 2002 spilled anhydrous ammonia and sent up a cloud of poison gas, a public warning over radio was not broadcast for nearly 90 minutes. The designated emergency announcement station’s single employee on duty could not be reached because phone lines were jammed by residents calling in. Authorities tried activating the radio’s Emergency Alert System, but the EAS failed. What if Minot citizens could have received an emergency message on their cell phones warning them of this toxic danger and appropriate directives to safety.

When residents of coastal Texas were ordered to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Rita barreled up the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, they had nowhere to go. Escape routes were clogged for days as millions of Houston-area residents, 50 miles farther from danger, fled the storm when they heard the broadcast EAS, rather than waiting for appropriate notification after the citizens in greater danger were safely evacuated. What if coastal residents could have received on their cell phones an early evacuation notice targeted just to them? What if all evacuees could have been notified of alternative traffic routes and available fuel locations while they were en route to safety.

Modern communications comes in many forms, all of which should be utilized in disaster management as part of an overall emergency alert plan for citizens. This report focuses on cell broadcast technology and how it fits the purpose in alerting the public.

Functionality of Cell Broadcasting
Cell broadcast is an integrated open system that allows emergency officials one-touch notification to cell phones with guarantee of covering all carriers. Cell broadcast technology enables a government entity to securely transmit an emergency alert of natural or manmade disasters to cell phones in an affected area within two minutes, regardless of the size of the area and regardless of the subscriber’s carrier.

The cell broadcast alert causes the cell phone to sound a ring and to display a warning message on the screen. The message is relayed with greater efficiency than a two-way call or a SMS text message without overloading the network, as frequently occurs in disasters when thousands of concerned citizens and emergency managers are attempting to place cell phone calls. Cell broadcast is a more advanced technology than SMS text messaging.

Cell broadcast is already resident in most network infrastructure and in most phones, so there is no need to build any towers, lay any cable, write any software, or replace terminals. Once the wireless carriers have agreed to support cell broadcast, all that is required is then the subscribers activate the functionality, opting in to the alert notification service.

Cell broadcast is not affected by traffic load. Therefore it will operate during a disaster, when load spikes tend to crash networks. Also it creates no significant load of its own, so it would not add to the problem.

Cell broadcast is geo-scalable. A message can reach hundreds of millions of people, even across continents, within a matter of minutes.

Cell broadcast is geo-specific. Messages can be directed at only those citizens in an area requiring notification. For example, government disaster managers can avoid panic and road jamming by notifying priority neighborhoods of an emergency evacuation while reassuring unaffected neighborhoods that they are safer to stay in their homes, reducing gridlock.

Cell broadcast is working successfully in Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean region. The United Nations, its International Telecommunications Union, and other international governing bodies are already developing global harmonization standards for emergency cell broadcast warnings. The World Health Organization is planning to use it for pandemic alerts. It is imperative that the all the countries are immediately trying to implement this latest, most advanced technology to keep pace with these global communications initiatives.


* Cell broadcast exists today. It’s currently operable worldwide..
* Cell broadcast will work in disasters and will not cause network congestion or
* Overload. Emergency alerts are transmitted on a dedicated channel that is independent of Normal usage.
* Cell broadcast is Geo-specific and Geo-scalable. Cell broadcasting is a tool to reach any Individual cell or to create any size of groups of cell for a message. It can coordinate a Layered evacuation.
* Cell broadcast is authenticated. Cell broadcast is protected from spammers, spoofers or cyber terrorists.
* Cell broadcast reaches 100% of at-risk population with cell phones. Emergency alert will reach anyone with a cell phone regardless of subscriber or location of subscription.
* Channels can be designated for first responders. This can reduce emergency response
* Time and increase coordination of first responders.
* Cell broadcast allows 64,000 channels of information with transmission in several languages simultaneously

NetXcell’s Contribution to Cell Broadcast:

NetXcell Cell Broadcast Center (hereinafter referred to as NetXcell CBC) is designed for creation and simultaneous delivery of the so called Cell Broadcast messages (CB messages) to multiple users of mobile networks. CB messages can be broadcast across the entire network coverage area or within specific segments (cells). The system can function both in GSM and UMTS.

Netxcell CBC will improve the operator’s bottom-line by creating additional revenue flows from the advertisers who will use cell broadcast channels for better exposure. The message broadcast center will enable fast delivery of useful information to a huge number of subscribers, boosting their loyalty.

Cell broadcast technology is strong, viable and immediate communication solution, Which can be put in place to make citizens alerts better. Cell broadcast provide relief to the wireless services in emergency situations. The industry and regulators must work together to find mutual benefits. The good part is the technology of cell Broadcast works very well today. It can save many lives.