Pai Asks Industry Associations, Qualcomm to Assist in WEA Geo-Targeting Efforts
Thursday, September 10, 2020 | Comments

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to CTIA, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and Qualcomm to assist in Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) geotargeting efforts.

In the letters, Pai noted that WEAs are critical tools for federal, state and local officials to warn the public about threats but are only useful to emergency managers and the public if they can be accurately delivered to the targeted geographic area. The commission’s enhanced WEA geo-targeting rules, passed in December 2019, require alerts to delivered to 100% of a target area with no more than one-tenth of a mile overshoot, Pai said.

In his letter to CTIA, Pai noted that the organization had recently told the commission that about 18% of active smartphones currently support WEA geo-targeting. Additionally, CTIA estimated that the majority of active smartphones will support the function by 2022.

Pai asked CTIA to annually update the commission, beginning July 2021, with the wireless industry’s estimates of current and projected market penetration rates for devices that support the enhanced geo-targeting technology. Pai said such an update will allow the commission to stay better aware of the progress in deploying WEA technologies.

In the letter to Qualcomm, Pai noted that the enhanced geo-targeting capabilities are dependent on the chipset.

“I was pleased to hear that Qualcomm’s regulatory team has shared in discussions with Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau staff that all Qualcomm-enabled 5G devices sold — and to be sold — in the United States will support enhanced WEA geo-targeting,” Pai wrote. “Qualcomm’s execution of this commitment can increase both the use and usefulness of WEA, and ultimately, save lives.”

Finally, in his letter to ATIS, Pai addressed standards for WEA geo-targeting. He noted that wireless providers depend on ATIS standards to ensure that they comply with the FCC’s enhanced geo-targeting rules.

“I am pleased to learn that ATIS is continuing to improve upon its enhanced WEA geo-targeting standards by tasking its Wireless Technologies Systems Committee with producing a white paper on WEA cell broadcast facility selection in 3Q2020,” Pai wrote.

Pai noted that currently ATIS’ WEA standard specifies a range of allowable values for wireless providers and manufacturers to use are parameters for enhanced geo-targeting. He asked ATIS to task its Wireless Technologies Systems Committee with producing best practices that refine those discretionary parameters to improve enhanced geo-targeting.

Specifically, Pai asked that the 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.

Pai asked ATIS to invite representatives from the alerting and public-safety communications to participate in developing the standards and asked it to publish the best practices by the second quarter of 2021 so as not to delay the work of the committee.

Pai asked for responses to letters by Oct. 1.

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