Definition of CMAS

Scheduled to go into effect in 2012, the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is said to eliminate the throughput/network traffic challenges cause by many SMS solutions.

The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is scheduled to go into effect starting in 2012 and will enable consumers to receive emergency alerts through their wireless phones. CMAS uses broadcast technology to deliver messages. This approach, which has been in use in Europe and Japan for years, eliminates the throughput/network traffic challenges experienced by many SMS solutions.

The first generation will only be able to send messages that are no more than 90 characters in length. In other words, initially, CMAS messages will be even shorter than current SMS messages. Thus, the content of the CMAS notifications will be very limited. They will basically drive recipients to other sources of information, like the Web, television or radio.

According to FEMA, under the rules adopted by the FCC:

  • “The CMAS would consist of an end-to-end system by which an alert aggregator/gateway would receive, authenticate, validate and format federal, state, tribal and local alerts and then forward them to the appropriate commercial mobile service (CMS) provider gateway. The CMS provider gateway and associated infrastructure would process the alerts and transmit them to subscriber handsets.
  • “Subscribers could receive up to three classes of text-based alerts (i.e., Presidential, Imminent Threat (e.g., tornado) and Amber Alerts).
  • “Subscribers would automatically receive these alerts if they have a CMAS-compatible handset. No subscriber opt-in requirements.
  • “To ensure that people with disabilities have access to alerts, CMS providers must provide a unique audio attention signal and vibration cadence on CMAS-compatible handsets.
  • “CMS providers generally must transmit alerts to areas no larger than the targeted county. However, CMS providers may transmit to areas smaller than the county if they choose to do so.
  • “Subscribers receiving services pursuant to a roaming agreement will receive alert messages if: (1) the operator of the roamed upon network is a participating CMS provider; and (2) the subscriber’s mobile device is configured for and technically capable of receiving alert messages from the roamed-upon network.
  • “CMAS messages will not pre-empt calls in progress.”

CMAS is set up in such a way that all of the major CMS providers will be participating, although some of the smaller carriers might not.


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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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