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CTIA Says Implementing WEA Geotargeting Changes Will Take Time

Industry group presses FCC to set guidelines that members can then work with

The heavy hitters of the wireless industry pressed the Federal Communications Commission to consider that it will take time — up to three years — to ensure any proposed geotargeting changes can be successfully implemented to the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

Staff from the wireless organization CTIA (along with member companies AT&T, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, Qualcomm and Verizon) met with staff from the chairman and commissioners’ offices in early January to offer a framework for moving ahead to improve the geotargeting capabilities of emergency alerts within WEA.

The group explained that there’s a key difference between device-based and network-based solutions: Device-based WEA geotargeting will require fundamental changes to the existing WEA system because a mobile device must process the geotargeting WEA information — as compared to a networked-based solution, in which a mobile phone can simply present a cell-broadcast WEA message as-is. In the latter case, the CTIA said, there’s no need to process or analyze the alert content in any way.

Thus, CTIA said, wireless companies must create new device standards, solutions and best-practice scenarios within devices to handle device-based WEA geotargeting. “Such a fundamental shift in WEA capabilities will require new mobile wireless network and device standards and solutions, as well as new or modified technologies and practices for FEMA’s IPAWS and alert originators,” the group said in its filing with the FCC.

As a result, the group said, it will take the industry at least 36 months to move forward, “given the significant efforts that will be necessary to support this new capability,” CTIA said.

The CTIA said it might be possible to begin testing new WEA enhancements with a prototype device using device-based geotargeting methods by Dec. 31, 2019. More testing needs to be done to determine if existing devices can be modified to support WEA geotargeting capabilities, the CTIA said. The FCC has proposed for geotargeting to go into effect Nov. 30, 2019.

The CTIA filing is one of many comments within the commission’s ECFS database on improving WEA and EAS. Filers can search for filings and submit their own using Docket 15-91.

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