SMS for Emergency - Industry Report


October 2010 - Report by 4G Americas

4G Americas, a wireless industry trade association representing the 3GPP family of technologies, today reports that it has published a white paper that provides a technical and practical analysis of SMS as a means to contact Emergency Services. The report titled, Texting to 9-1-1: Examining the Design and Limitations of SMS, presents a view of the capabilities, limitations, threats and vulnerabilities of this means of text communications for emergency networks.

"..SMS has significant limitations and shortcomings that do not make SMS suitable for emergency communications, especially under life-threatening conditions,” stated Chris Pearson, President of 4G Americas.



The report notes that there are substantial limitations inherent in the design of the current Short Message Services which make it impractical to be used for emergency service.
Some key observations and conclusions of the white paper include the following:
  • No location information is available to the control facility when a person initiates an SMS message and it traverses the network. Location is subject to whatever is put in the message by the originator, which may delay or misroute the message.
  • Because the SMS service was designed and deployed to use only temporarily-vacant capacity in the networks, wireless operators have always described service/reliability levels as “best efforts only” or equivalent.
  • No priority or special handling is given to SMS messages, so a potential emergency message would contend with the millions of other messages being processed at any given moment.
  • SMS is not a real-time communications service.  SMS messages is “store and forward” and thus may have a delayed delivery, may be delivered in a different order than the sender intended, or may be lost or discarded.
  • SMS was not designed with security mechanisms, and it is possible for SPAM or Denial of Service attacks to flood networks