Sprint Enables New SMS Emergency Alert System

Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) said it is the first U.S. wireless carrier to enable a new SMS-based emergency alert system that the nation's Tier 1 wireless operators and federal agencies rallied around earlier this year.

Sprint said its network now supports the Wireless Emergency Alert system, which will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver warning messages to wireless networks from the president of the United States, the National Weather Service and state and local emergency operations centers. Customers receive the warnings when their phones are enabled with special chipsets and software, and the warnings are sent based upon geolocation. Sprint also said that it will conduct a test of the system later this year in New York City in coordination with federal and local public safety agencies.

In May, the nation's Tier 1 carriers, FEMA and the FCC, came together to announce the news system, which will launch first in New York and Washington, D.C. Verizon (NYS: VZ) Wireless, AT&T (NYS: T) Mobility and T-Mobile USA also support the system but have not said when it will be operational on their networks.

The system will send out alerts issued by President Obama as well as for emergencies and Amber Alerts for missing children. Only users within the affected areas will receive the alerts, and subscribers can opt out of all alerts except those sent by the president. The alerts will be routed through local cell towers, and will be accompanied by a unique signal and vibration.

Sprint said a dozen devices currently support the service, including the HTC Evo 3D, Kyocera Milano, LG Marquee, Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch and the Sanyo Vero by Kyocera. The carrier said the customers can activate the service by dialing ##CMAS# or ##2627#, and choosing to "enable the CMAS client" when prompted.

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