Austria to launch SMS emergency alert system

Two men in suits pointing at mobile phone
In the event of a regional or national crisis, Austrian authorities will soon be able to update you via text message. Photo: Luis Villasmil/Unsplash
In the near future, Austria's authorities will be able to update you via text message in the event of emergencies or crises.

“It is high time we passed a modern telecommunications law that meets the requirements of the present day,” said Telecoms Minister Elisabeth Köstinger when the amendments to the law were passed by Austria’s parliament on Wednesday.

She said that it had been a “mammoth task” to revise the law that dated back to 2003, when telecoms looked completely different.

The SMS emergency alerts are intended to be ready for use from 2022.

Not all the details are clear yet, with a working group in place to decide how authorities will work with mobile network providers, but the text will be free for recipients and will be sent by relevant national authorities in the event of an unfolding crisis or disaster.

Residents won’t need to download an app or complete any registration to receive the alerts; being connected to a mobile network will be enough. You won’t even need a smartphone; the system, called Cell Broadcast, works on older and simpler phones too.

Similar systems are already in place in Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Romania, as well as further afield in Japan, Israel and the USA.

Another change made to the telecommunications law means that it will soon be possible to send a text to the emergency number 112, which could be especially useful for people with disabilities.

The amendments also included the expansion of broadband and mobile networks, especially in remote areas, as well as changes to boost consumer rights such as making it simpler to switch providers, including if you need to switch due to a change of address.

Austria plans to be a “pioneer” in 5G expansion, and to simplify the cooperation agreements when it comes to ​​network expansion, so that for example multiple networks could use the same transmitter masts, making expansion in the countryside more attractive.


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