Pai Wants Answers About Wireless Industry Efforts to Update WEA Geo-targeting

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Wireless Emergency Alerts are now more geographically targeted and the FCC expects that to improve over time as more updated smartphones reach the market. Since last December, in response to FCC rules changes, participating wireless providers are required to deliver alerts to the entire area targeted by emergency management officials with no more than a one-tenth of a mile overshoot.

If that’s not technically feasible, wireless providers must continue to deliver alerts to their best approximation of the target area, the agency standard since 2017.  That’s a big change from when the WEA system began in 2012 and alerts were sent on a county-wide basis.

All new “WEA-capable” mobile devices offered for sale after last December must support this enhanced geo-targeting. FCC rules also require wireless providers to support enhanced geo-targeting on WEA-capable mobile devices that were released before last December and can be upgraded.  

The agency is monitoring geo-targeting implementation progress. That’s why Chairman Ajit Pai last week asked CTIA to file annual updates on the wireless industry’s estimated market penetration rates for mobile devices that support enhanced geo-targeting.

The Chairman also wrote to chipmaker Qualcomm, requesting confirmation that it plans to support enhanced geo-targeting in all the 5G devices that its chipsets support in the U.S.

Pai asked standards organization, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, to develop best practices to further improve enhanced geo-targeting. Specifically, Pai asked that standards cover the following:

  • The recommended frequency with which wireless providers’ networks retransmit WEAs,
  • The recommended number of location checks that WEA-capable mobile devices should perform when determining whether to display a WEA,
  • The recommended number of seconds that WEA-capable mobile devices should wait to get a fix on their location during each location check, and
  • The recommended processes to ensure that WEA-capable mobile devices display WEAs received during active voice or data sessions when the device is located within the targeted geographic area.

 He asked all three entities to answer his requests by October 1. 

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