Warning system: Federal government apparently wants to introduce cell broadcast

After the flood disaster in western Germany, the Federal Ministry of the Interior is pushing ahead with the introduction of a warning system via the mobile network, according to a media report. Minister Horst Seehofer told the ARD capital studio on Friday that he had commissioned the introduction of so-called “cell broadcasting” on Wednesday.

The CSU politician emphasized again that he viewed the system as a supplement to the existing warning means. “The warning of the population has to work, on all channels. If you are woken up at night, you have to know immediately what happened and how to behave.” The text message can complement sirens, apps and radio. “We need them,” said Seehofer, according to the ARD capital studio.

After the storm, there were allegations that people in the affected areas were not warned quickly enough. With cell broadcasting, a message is sent to all cell phone users who are currently in the radio cell in question. Unlike a personal SMS, Cell Broadcast sends the message like a radio signal – anyone who is within range of the cell and has a switched on cell phone receives the message.

In principle, the system is based on the common mobile radio standards and has long been used in some European countries – for example in the Netherlands. But it cannot simply be switched on now. Before a nationwide deployment, common interfaces and the legal framework must be defined. Then network operators can implement this in their infrastructure. If the federal government creates a legal basis by the time of the election, industry representatives consider the introduction by next summer to be at least realistic.

In the EU, all member states must have set up a warning system by summer 2022 in which “the providers of mobile number-based interpersonal communication services send public warnings to end users”. It may be attributed to technology neutrality that the EU Commission does not directly write “Cell Broadcasting” in the directive. The fact that in the following paragraph she left a back door open for comparable systems via app is likely to have happened at the instigation of the federal government.

Because Germany prefers to maintain its own infrastructure with the modular warning system of the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid (BBK) and apps such as Katwarn or NINA. The system proved to be unreliable not only during the nationwide test alarm last year, but also during the flood disaster.

In the middle of the week, Seehofer said that the BBK had already commissioned a feasibility study in spring to warn by cell broadcasting. Its President Armin Schuster assumes that the result expected before the general election will be positive. Why a feasibility study is still needed for a system that is defined as part of a global mobile communications standard and is already being used successfully in several countries will probably remain the federal government’s secret.


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