In the future Israeli civilians will be warned about missile attacks through their cellular phones

Date: 30/05/2011, 10:53 AM     Author: IDF (Zahal) Website

Code Red (early warning radar system) to your cellular device? This will become a reality two years from now, according to the plans of the Home Front Command. For the past year, the IDF (Zahal) Home Front Command has been working on warning civilians of rocket attacks via cellular devices. The command’s Cellular Broadcasting Technology was already successfully tested in the nationwide exercise, Turning Point 3, held 6 weeks ago. The warning will be received as a free text message. “We realize that most of the people in the country have cellular phones,” explains Lt. Col. Uri Perez, Head of the Teleprocessing and Warning Platoon, when discussing the significance of cellular technology for distributing warnings in the country. He points out that today there are more cellular phones than people – nine million phones to seven million civilians. “The chance to receive a warning is very likely, and it’s a very personal thing that no matter your whereabouts, your cellular phone is with you – therefore we are moving in this direction.”

The Cellular Broadcasting Technology works according to the device’s location. When a warning about a missile attack is received in a certain area, a warning message will be sent to whoever is in the zone. In this same manner, we can carry on giving instructions and guidance to the population after the landing of the missile. The technology exists in the three main cellular companies, and in most cellular devices. Furthermore, the command wants to require the importation strictly of cell phones that have this technology, however according to Lt. Col. Perez, the rate in which most people upgrade their cellular devices is fast enough, that two years from now every user will have a compatible device. However the Mirs Communications Company situation is slightly different, because they work with the Packet Data V technology, which is an older technology, as opposed to other companies, where their service is subject to registration and payment. “Their technology is unique because it was specially developed for security forces, and we haven’t investigated what we will do in this field,” admits Lt. Col. Perez.

So what needs to happen in order for all of us to receive early warnings about missile attacks on our cellular phones? Mainly rules and regulation matters. “One of the first things is regulation. There should be a law of the Ministry of Communication giving to cellular companies proper guidance,” explains Lt. Col. Perez. “We began a process; a document came out that was signed by Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, OC Home Front Command. The document asks the CEO of the Ministry of Communication to begin working on this. The idea is for the Ministry of Communication to guide the cellular companies in order to enable this technology, and it also needs to be officially defined so that all the companies could work together.” Another development required is that Israel’s civilians purchase devices compatible with this technology.

“When I look at the cellular warning system, I can conclude that it is a very efficient tool,” says Lt. Col. Perez. However, “It is meant to be an addition to the radio and sirens – not a replacement,” he emphasizes. His ambition is for the technology to be implemented in two years, however he claims that it could happen ever faster: “In the Turning Point 3 exercise, we proved that the capability exists. My ambition is for the government to understand that this is an important tool, and that it should apply pressure on the companies to work on it even faster, in order for it to possibly be in use a year from now.”