Thailand trials first mobile phone emergency alert system

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

The inaugural trial of Thailand’s first cell broadcast service (CBS), a pioneering emergency alert system for mobile phones, kicked off yesterday. The trial was a joint venture between the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and Advanced Info Service (AIS).

Conducted at the NBTC headquarters on Phahon Yothin Road, the trial demonstrated the capabilities of the CBS system. The system will eventually connect to the government’s central command centre, acting as a swift and efficient channel for disaster warnings.

NBTC chairman, Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, stated that the trial had yielded satisfactory results. He explained that CBS technology allows emergency warnings to be sent directly to all devices within a specified target area, without the need for phone numbers. This approach enables the rapid distribution of emergency information across the entire affected area. As such, individuals will not need to download an application to receive these alerts.

The introduction of a standardised emergency alert system is expected to bolster public confidence, positively influencing economic stability, tourism, and overall societal security.

The primary goal of this public warning system is to enhance safety, especially in the aftermath of violent incidents, shootings, and natural disasters. However, before the system is implemented, the government must designate an agency to serve as the command centre for dispatching warning messages. It may also be necessary for some related ministries to draft regulations to oversee and operate the warning system.

The development of the cell broadcast emergency alert system has been a collaborative effort between the NBTC and various related agencies, with support from its Universal Service Obligation and Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund.

Emergency notifications

Waroonthep Watcharaporn, AIS’s head of business relations, noted that the system was ideal for emergency notifications due to its ability to simultaneously send messages to mobile phones within the coverage area of the respective base station. He added that the latest test of the technology had successfully achieved its objectives, with the involved parties ready to expand its integration with the existing emergency alert system efficiently.

The implementation of CBS technology involves two systems. The first, managed by the government’s central command centre via the Cell Broadcast Entities (CBE) system, will define the content and delivery areas for the messages. The second, overseen by mobile operators through the Cell Broadcast Center (CBC) system, will deliver message content to base stations as per the specified areas, reported Bangkok Post.

Dr Sarana indicated that each mobile operator would likely incur a cost of approximately 400 million baht for the CBS system installation. However, operators will be able to offset this cost against the annual universal obligation service fee they pay to the NBTC.

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