2013 Research Brief (Number 04) - FM Radio and RBDS-Based Emergency Alerting: Possibilities and Potholes

Date of Publication: 
2013 October

October 2013 — The Wireless RERC released a Research Brief entitled, “FM Radio and RBDS-Based Emergency Alerting: Possibilities and Potholes.”  The brief discusses the limitations of current mobile emergency alerts, noting the expense and unreliability of Short Message Service (SMS) text messages and the limited text allowed for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Further noted is the limited accessibility of WEA, as text-to-speech is not a requirement for WEA and is often costly to the end user.  In order to enhance the accessibility of alerts and provide more robust emergency information, the brief proposes the use of FM radio and Radio Broadcast Data Service (RBDS).  Specifically, use of “RBDS for emergency alerting would combine both a WEA textual message sent to a phone as well as receiving EAS audio emergency alerting information from an FM radio station.”  Use of FM radio and RBDS in conjunction with WEA would allow for people with disabilities to receive emergency alerts in both audio and visual formats, while additional development of accessory software could further enhance accessibility to allow mobile devices to interpret alerts in ASL, provide text-to-speech or drive a bed shaker. Yet, due to the limited adoption of FM radio in cell phones, the alerting capabilities of RBDS are extremely limited.  The Wireless RERC notes that industry support or regulatory action could support inclusion of FM functionality within cellular phones.



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