New Mobile EAS Coalition Weighs in at FCC

M-EAS Easily Complements Desire for More Reliable Emergency Alerts

By John Taylor, LG Electronics USA

It was gridlock on both the roadways and cell phone networks throughout Atlanta at the end of January, as tens of thousands of commuters were surprised by a winter storm. One of the primary cell phone providers said their network was fine – just overloaded with calls.

“Each cell phone tower has its limits,” explained the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper. “And many choke points in mid-afternoon were jammed with anxious, frustrated drivers – most of them packing cell phones.”

Whether it’s an icy Georgia interstate, the flooded shores of New Jersey, or an earthquake that rocked the nation’s capital, the nation’s current wireless telephone infrastructure simply isn’t built for emergency use by tens of thousands of subscribers.

In comments filed last month with the FCC, the Mobile EAS Coalition, a loose-knit but passionate group of broadcasting and technology companies involved in the Mobile Emergency Alert System, called for a broader approach to emergency alerts and one that fully utilizes the capability of next-generation alerting through Mobile Digital TV.

The Mobile EAS Coalition membership includes Audiovox, Baron Broadcasting, Capitol Broadcasting, Convergence Services,Cox Media Group, Harris Broadcast, LG Electronics, Monroe Electronics, SpectraRep, Wearable Xlabs, and Triveni Digital.

More than 150 U.S. television stations already are broadcasting Mobile DTV signals, the terrestrial TV broadcast backbone of Mobile EAS.

In our FCC comments, we point out that the biggest advantages to Mobile EAS for viewers are the types of emergency alerting that can be activated. Viewers can be given the option to select specific and timely rich-media information pertaining specifically to that alert. This rich-media information could include:

• Video
• Radar images
• Evacuation maps
• Local news and weather coverage
• Text
• Photographs
• Pictorial instructions
• Shelter location information
• And more

Most importantly, all of these additional information assets are sent as packetized files via the TV broadcast signal, a one-to-many application that is not susceptible to overload. This means high reliability and mass, instantaneous distribution, which is especially crucial in emergency events when cellular networks may be unavailable.

The Coalition’s comments make it clear that the time has come for the FCC to address the major new opportunity offered by Mobile EAS to improve warning, response, and recovery in times of manmade and natural disasters. Mobile EAS presents a rare opportunity to dramatically improve America’s public safety communications capability. It requires no additional spectrum and can be deployed through marginal investments in existing infrastructure and planned infrastructure.

While Mobile DTV requires no additional spectrum, it does require special encoding equipment at television stations, as well as Mobile DTV receivers in mobile phones, tablets and other hand-held TVs. As more broadcasters nationwide deploy Mobile DTV along with their regular broadcast services, Mobile EAS capability can be included at a relatively small incremental investment.

If you share our belief that M-EAS–which harnesses the power of terrestrial broadcasting to deliver rich media content to the public and first responders in times of emergencies –
must be considered as a key element of our nation’s emergency preparedness, please consider A) joining our coalition and B) filing reply comments with the FCC by February 18.

Contact John Lawson if you’d like to help: [email protected]

AWARN Advisory Council