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Industry Insights

Misconceptions of SMS in Emergency Notification

December 15, 2010
Author: Amy Baker, Director of Marketing and 4G Americas

As we talk with our prospects and customers we continue to hear about the limitations of mass notification systems which utilize mobile phone networks. While these solutions serve an important purpose of being able to communicate to a broad audience of people wherever they are, these systems are limited in their ability to deliver messages quickly and with urgency to an audience in a specific location.

The paper written by 4G Americas Texting to 9-1-1: Examining the Design and Limitations of SMS explains some of the reasons for delayed emergency messages as outlined in these six common misconceptions about mobile phone infrastructure.

Misconception #1 Cellular networks constantly keep track of mobile devices

FALSE All that is known is which Messaging Service Center or paging area to try to find the mobile device; this can be a large area

Misconception #2 SMS operates over a separate network from mobile phone calls

FALSE All of the resources are the same ones used for mobile phone calls

Misconception #3 SMS is a reliable, real-time service

FALSE SMS is a store and forward (non-real-time) best effort service (meaning that service providers make their best effort to deliver the messages, but there are no guarantees)

Misconception #4 SMS is a two-way session-based service

FALSE SMS is not session based, and is a one-way point-to-point service

Misconception #5 SMS can provide 9-1-1 location accuracy

FALSE SMS cannot provide the location accuracy of a 9-1-1 call because the mobile device is on the network for such a short period of time (4-5 seconds). It takes up to 30 seconds to identify location and that's on a different channel than SMS utilizes.

Misconception #6 A cellular network can handle every subscriber that wants to make a call or send a text message simultaneously.

FALSE Cellular networks are engineered to handle expected traffic loads at the busiest time of the day, and are physically not able to support every subscriber simultaneously.

If you are concerned about the limitations of cellular networks and interested in strengthening your emergency notification program, you may want to consider a system that communicates using triple-redundant technologies, none of which are cellular networks.  The Metis Secure system also offers two-way communication, precision location information and unprecedented message delivery speed.

Download Texting to 9-1-1: Examining the Design and Limitations of SMS