Optus joins Telstra, Vodafone on emergency alerts upgrade

Optus joins Telstra, Vodafone on emergency alerts upgrade

Summary: All three mobile carriers have signed on to provide emergency alerts over their mobile networks when customers are in an area experiencing an emergency, such as a bushfire or terrorist attack.

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Victoria has now completed negotiations with Optus to bring the mobile carrier into the upgraded national emergency alerts system.

The upgrade to the system will take into account the physical location of a device when sending emergency alerts, such as bushfire warnings. Currently, the national system only takes into consideration the registered address of the device, leading to confusion if the user is already in a safe location or missed alerts if a person is visiting a region experiencing an emergency.

Victoria has been managing the negotiations with Telstra, Vodafone and Optus and over the weekend, the Acting Premier of Victoria Peter Ryan confirmed that Optus would also join the national system.

"As planned, Telstra will deliver location-based capability to its customers by December 2012, and Vodafone and Optus will have it in place ahead of the 2013/14 fire season," Ryan said.

Optus told ZDNet in a statement that until the national solution is implemented, it will continue to use its existing capability to deliver SMS alerts to customers. It currently works with emergency service organisations with each state individually in the event of an emergency.

The difference in national roll-out schedules is due to Telstra agreeing to provide location-based alerts in January, while Vodafone only signed on to the system earlier this month.

This latest development puts questions over the national effectiveness of the alerts system at rest, with concerns previously raised that if not all telcos signed on to the system, only part of the nation would be covered.

However, even with a national alerts system in place, Ryan warned that it should not be relied on as the sole method of emergency information.

"It is important that people tune in to the radio, check emergency services websites and stay aware of conditions," he said.

Updated on September 24 at 1.23 p.m. AEST: added statement from Optus.

Topics: Australia, Telcos, Optus, Telstra

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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