How does the alert system that hits all mobile phones in France work?

At the end of the month, a new system of warning and informing the population will be introduced. It is based on the so-called cellular broadcasting technology.

France is finally implementing a modern alert system to inform its citizens in an area at risk! Announced by Interior Minister Gerard Darmanen at the end of 2021, the FR-Alert will be operational by 21 June. It will be reserved for public services such as ministries or prefectures. And it is activated in the event of natural disasters, such as floods or storms, serious public safety events such as attacks or even health problems, and biological and chemical risks.

This new device will be based on technology not previously used by French authorities. This is the diffusion of cells, cellular broadcasting Where CB in English, which is already widespread in the United States or Japan.

Rest assured, the state has not collected the numbers of all citizens in a large file and will not monitor your movements with a magnifying glass. In fact, it is the operators who will be responsible for disseminating notifications, respecting the anonymity of the data.

Fast mass delivery

in cellular broadcasting is to send a text message to all phones via one or more target antennas. This technology has several advantages. This allows you to target users who are close to danger to get to safety. Notifications can be sent to many people in just a few seconds thanks to a special channel that avoids network congestion. Finally, Android and iOS take special care of these alerts: they emit a shrill sound and display them in full screen when they arrive, even when the latter is locked. This reduces the likelihood of missing out.

To achieve this, operators had to upgrade their networks, but also deploy a single communication interface between them and the services that are likely to request them. To take advantage of this, you will need to upgrade users’ iOS devices, but not Android, which is compatible by default. On the other hand, there is no need to download anything, as was the case with the SAIP application, launched in 2016 after the 2015 attacks. For this reason, it was used very little.

SMS geolocation additionally

This technology can work with older generations of telephony, but the Ministry of Internal Affairs clarified that it will be used only only for phones connected to 4G for cost reasons. This will affect 5G in the medium term. Therefore, it will be necessary to supplement the device with another older technology for addressing phones connected only to 2G or 3G.

This is Location-Based SMS (LB-SMS, Location-Based-SMS). You probably remember the text message “Alerte Covid 19”, which all French people received during the first imprisonment in the spring of 2020. It caused a lot of talk because some citizens received it late. This method was used then, and the disadvantage of which is that the loads, when they are too massive, break.

The European Circular 2018 obliges member states to set up a mobile phone alert system by 21 June. Thus, France waited until the last moment to meet the requirements. If cellular broadcasting is launched on time, geolocation SMS will be deployed in the second half of the year. Since the beginning of the year, notifications have been sent to some regions as part of the Civil Security exercises.

Source: European Directive, Ministry of the Interior