The UK government is exploring the possibility of working with the four major mobile network operators to send alerts to citizens’ phones in case of emergencies.
The Civil Contingencies Secretariat of the Cabinet Office, in a post on the government’s Digital Marketplace, has invited mobile operators to offer solutions that would enable the police to send emergency messages to the public. One of the key aspects of the proposal is the ability to restrict transmission to a fixed geographic area, which the police will determine.
The government plans to implement the system in which messages could be supplied to EE, Three, Vodafone, and O2, which could then send the messages to their customers in a defined geographical area and said the messages would likely be composed by the police and would relate to “non-specific major incidents that start with little or no notice”.
In the post, the government said: “It is intended that citizens receiving the message will act in a way to reduce overall harm and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the response to the incident. We are conscious that the message will be potentially received on all customer phones.”
The system will be run on an ‘opt-out’ principle under which users are automatically sent messages unless they specifically request otherwise. Currently, the chosen supplier will be required to pass through two stages and will be chosen out of five potential suppliers.
Under the first stage, the supplier is required to make use of its own market experience and expertise to make a presentation to the government on the merits and challenges of a mobile alert system.
If the government decides to proceed, the supplier will be required to work with mobile network operators and other market representatives to put together a final report on how the scheme could be rolled out.
The government said: “Looking forward, this work could form part of a significant programme. This work package is to be completed during the early part of spring 2018.”
The closing date for applications is 16 January 2018 and the government expects to spend £100,000 on the initial exploratory work.