Broadcasters argue for radio reception in cell phones in case of emergency

Jan 17, 2016 11:54 pm
Susan Ashworth reports in Radio World that broadcasters are turning to "national security" to get cell phones to play AM and FM radio signals. The National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio are now crowing about how they can help free up bandwidth in a national emergency. Usually, when lobbyists cry "national security" they are usually just trying to pile on extra funding, but they may have something of a point. Putting aside whether consumers want to receive AM and FM radio signals on their phones, their argument before a Congressional hearing on improving wireless emergency alerts, was that, if the plan to send important public safety alerts to cell phones included a link to an internet site, the flood of immediate traffic to that site would probably cause problems. Remember on Sept. 11, 2001 how difficult it was to make a call? Imagine now if every cell phone got an alert telling the user to go to a certain website for more information. “Adding a URL that simply drives users to the Internet will only exacerbate the congestion of wireless networks that already plagues mobile communications and impedes public safety during times of crisis,” NPR and the NAB argued in the comments on a new emergency alert policy. Instead, broadcasters argue, why not send citizens to their local AM and FM radio stations for more information. That way no additional bandwidth is being used, as terrestrial radio stations do not crash from too many listeners. They may be correct, but they just want cell phone users to be able to tune in to local frequencies from their cell phones, so adding an "emergency" component makes a good political argument. "Several phone manufacturers already support the activation of FM chips in mobile devices, including T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. However, even though a majority of smartphones sold in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2015 were equipped with an FM tuner, the NAB said, FM reception was disabled by phone manufacturers and wireless carriers in 63 percent of these devices," Radio World reports. The FCC is accepting reply comments on the issue through Feb. 12 for Proceeding Number is 15-91.
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