AIS and True say emergency cell broadcast service is ready to go

AIS and True say emergency cell broadcast service is ready to go

Thai operators AIS and True Corp announced separately on Tuesday that they are ready to implement an emergency cell broadcast service commissioned by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The cell broadcast service is designed to immediately pinpoint specific areas affected by urgent and critical incidents, including violence, shootings, and natural disasters.

The service comprises two parts: a Cell Broadcast Entities (CBE) system, managed and overseen by the central command center of the government, and the Cell Broadcast Center (CBC) system, managed and overseen by mobile 0perators.

The CBE system defines content and delivery areas for messages, consisting of various functions such as system management, message creation and approval. The CBC system is responsible for delivering message content to base stations according to specified areas, comprising system management and configuration, message deployment function, and network management.

The cell broadcast service will send direct warning messages from area base stations to all mobile phones within that region. The message is displayed on the mobile phone screen as a near real-time triggering pop-up notification.

The system differs from regular SMS in that it doesn't require phone numbers, allowing for rapid and efficient communication of emergency information across the entire affected area. This also means the public doesn't need to download any specific applications. Additionally, users will receive messages even if the even if the device is switched off.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) first proposed establishing a cell broadcast system for emergency alerts in October 2023 following a shooting at Siam Paragon Mall in which two people were killed and five others injured. Since then, the NBTC has collaborated with DES, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), the Royal Thai Police, and mobile operators to develop the system.

AIS demonstrated the cell broadcast service on Tuesday at the NBTC office. Clinical professor Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, chairman of the NBTC, said the results were satisfactory. “[The system] is ready to connect with the central government's command cente to serve as a tool or channel for swift and efficient disaster warnings.”

“The latest testing of this technology has successfully achieved its intended goals, and we are ready to expand its integration with the country's emergency alert system efficiently going forward,” said AIS head of business relations Waroonthep Watcharaporn.

Also on Tuesday, True Corp announced that it was ready to support the service, having successfully testing it on January 15.

“Currently, negotiations are underway with the government to put this system into practice … marking a first step of success for True Corp in developing and cooperating towards the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, the NBTC, and the DDPM for immediate deployment,” said Chakkrit Urairat, True Corp’s chief corporate affairs officer.

Chakkrit also said that True’s cell broadcast system supports five levels of alerts based on severity:

  • National Alert: The highest level of alert, immediately informing everyone within the coverage area
  • Emergency Alert: Alerts for various disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and flash floods, as well as criminal threats
  • Amber Alert: Alerts for information when a child is missing or abducted to help the public stay alert and assist government officials in monitoring and reporting if suspects are spotted
  • Public Safety: Public safety alerts in areas or for monitoring cases involving residents, communities, and passersby
  • Test Alert: A system for testing alerts for specific purposes before expanding to monitoring and alerts at different levels.

True also said its system supports five languages: Thai, English, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.

Neither True nor AIS said how much the implementation would cost. A report in the Bangkok Post last month quoted DES minister Prasert Jantararuangthong as saying the CBE would cost around 400 million baht (US$11 million) to set up. He also said mobile operators may have to spend 300 million baht each to install their own CBCs.

On Tuesday, the NBTC’s Sarana said in a joint statement with AIS that funding for the system would be supported by the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund.

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