Millions of people receive messages and alerts but the test has not been sent to some mobile users

Tens of millions of cell phone users received a message and a loud alarm during the first nationwide test of the government’s new public alert system.

However, many people have received the alert at 2.59pm on Sunday, a minute earlier than expected, and others said they didn’t receive anything until 10 minutes later, or at all.

And in Wales, the government made a spelling mistake in translating the notice sent in the Welsh language.

A spokesperson for the mobile phone network said it was aware that some customers had not received the notice.

“We are working closely with the government to understand why and ensure it doesn’t happen when the system is in use,” a spokesman said.

The Cabinet Office said it would look into the test across the UK and acknowledged that “a very small percentage of mobile users on some networks have not received it”.

A UK government spokesman said: “We have effectively completed the UK-wide test of the Emergency Alert System, the largest public communications exercise of its kind ever.

“We are working with mobile network operators to review the results and lessons learned.”

The distinct sound and vibration was accompanied by a message informing service people, designed to warn if there is a life-threatening emergency nearby.

The 10-second alert has been sent to all 4G and 5G devices across the UK. People were told they didn’t have to take action and could delete the message.

According to government guidance, people wouldn’t get alerts if their phones were turned off or in airplane mode; if they were connected to a 2G or 3G network; if they were only connected to wifi; or if their phones weren’t compatible.

Ministers hoped the test would familiarize the public with what alarms would look and sound like, should they be sent during any future crises.

It is intended to be used in situations such as extreme weather conditions, floods and fires.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said “it really is sound that could save your life”.

But critics said the warnings themselves could put people at risk, including drivers who could become distracted and domestic violence victims holding secret phone.

Ahead of Sunday’s test, sports stadiums, theaters and cinemas were among those scheduled how to protect yourself from interruption when it exploded.

To know more:
All you need to know about the UK emergency alert test

How does the technology work?

Emergency alerts are transmitted via mobile phone masts and work on all 4G and 5G phone networks.

It’s different than how the government sent lockdown orders during the pandemic, when SMS messages were sent directly to phone numbers.

It means that whoever sends an alert doesn’t need your number, so it’s not something you have to reply to, nor will you get a voicemail if you miss it. No location or other data will be collected.

It also means alerts could be pushed to tablets and smartwatches on their own data plans.

Anyone within range of an antenna will receive an alert and can be tuned according to geography – for example, Manchester residents would not need an alert in the event of life-threatening flooding in Cornwall.

To know more:
How emergency alerts work in other countries

Will alerts be used often?

Ministers insisted warnings would only be sent in “life-threatening” situations.

People who don’t want to receive the alerts will be able to turn off their device settings, turn off their phones or put them on airplane mode, but authorities hope many will choose to keep them turned on.

Such systems have seen increased adoption by governments in recent years, with the pandemic and climate-related emergencies increasing the need for quick and direct communication with the public.

The EU has introduced a directive requiring member states to have a telephone-based public warning system in place.

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