Equipping Mobile Phones with Broadcast Radio Capability for Emergency Preparedness

NAB continues to work with the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress to promote the inclusion and activation of radio receivers in mobile devices. For little cost, manufacturers can include a receiver for broadcast radio in mobile phones, giving consumers a convenient new way to access free radio service and improving public safety by ensuring that broadcasters’ Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages and critical information reach the widest possible audience.

Since the 1950s, broadcasters have been the backbone of the public warning system and remain so today. In addition to providing EAS messages, broadcasters provide wall-to-wall coverage during emergencies, sharing valuable information on storm paths, evacuation routes and other critical information. The next generation of public alerting was envisioned in the post-9/11 world as integrating other technologies or platforms to reach Americans that may be on the move when a major incident occurs. Broadcasters fully support this goal, which would be bolstered by including and activating radio receivers in mobile devices.

NAB continues to discuss the benefits of phones with built-in broadcast radio with congressional and FCC staff, and have participated in several briefings on the Hill and at the Commission to move the issue forward.

The FY 2013 House Homeland Security Appropriations bill included language asking the FCC, Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to explore the benefits of using broadcast radio receivers in mobile devices.

Broadcasters are also coordinating directly with wireless carriers. Due to an arrangement between Sprint and the radio industry, Sprint customers will soon have a variety of smartphones featuring built-in radio from which  to choose.

NAB Position
Radio-enabled mobile phones offer many benefits to consumers, especially in times of crisis. Unlike the text-based commercial mobile alert system being deployed by the wireless industry, broadcast radio can work even when cell networks go down and lack back-up power, as demonstrated during Hurricane Sandy and other recent disasters. There is also no risk that radio receivers in mobile phones will clog up the existing switched wireless networks and impede the delivery of important emergency information.

Action Needed
To enhance public safety, Congress, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the FCC and the mobile phone industry should consider ways to expand the availability of broadcast radio service in mobile phones and improve consumers’ access to information about radio-enabled mobile devices.

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