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Regulation for cell broadcast is available – but no appointment

The Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) has submitted an ordinance on the introduction of the cell broadcast warning technology. The ministry thus regulates technical details and operational processes of the radio warning system, the introduction of which the Bundestag decided to introduce with the amendment to the Telecommunications Act (TKG) on December 1, 2021. With cell broadcast, a cellular cell broadcasts a warning message in a continuous loop and thus reaches all devices that are logged into the cell.

Providers should regulation set up at least two Cell Broadcast Centers (CBC) each, which are responsible for distributing the warning messages and which also function without a public power supply. The CBC should also be secured against misuse “according to the state of the art”.

In order for warnings to be issued, the centers must be connected to the federal modular warning system (MoWaS). Both local authorities and the Federal Office for Population Protection and Disaster Relief (BKK) can then trigger warnings. The system must automatically determine which end devices are to be reached in which radius – it is common for MoWas warnings, which were previously issued via the Katwarn and NINA apps, to alert districts.

According to the ordinance, the BBK is in charge of the construction and control of the new infrastructure, which will significantly strengthen the authority. In addition, the Federal Network Agency is to monitor operations. For this purpose, real warnings and test messages must be logged and given reference numbers, among other things, the network agency can view these logs.

While the ordinance regulates many responsibilities in detail, there is no specification from when the system should be operational. The Association of Engineers for Communication (IfKom) criticizes this in its statement: “A schedule would clearly support the introduction of the system.” The Ministry has not followed the IfKom’s proposal to include an implementation deadline of December 31, 2022 in the ordinance.

The fact that the federal government does not set a date for cell broadcast is remarkable in view of the EU’s clear deadlines. The European Electronic Communications Code, adopted in 2018, requires members to introduce a system by which “providers of mobile number-based interpersonal communication services send public warnings to end users”. Deadline: June 21, 2022.

“Since 2018 there have been European requirements in Article 110 of the EU Directive 2018/1972 for the planned ‘EU-Alert’ system,” criticized Manuel Atug, spokesman for the Critical Infrastructure Working Group (AG Kritis), opposite heise online. Cell broadcast meets these requirements. “There obviously does not seem to be an implementation in line with the EU deadline, so that here too civil protection is being put on the back burner.”

The fact that there is no cell broadcast in Germany, unlike in the Netherlands or Greece, for example, was painfully noticeable, along with other errors in the warning chains during the flood disaster in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate in July 2021. In August, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) first put pressure and in September the Bundestag unanimously decided to change the law accordingly. The Federal Council should deal with it on Friday – whether it will then vote in favor of a specific date cannot yet be foreseen.

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