Do you have FM in your cellphone?

On July 13, 2012, in CMAS & Mobile Alerts, General, News, by with SRA International

A lot of us don’t give having an FM radio receiver in our mobile device a second thought, but for those caught up in the recent storms and ensuing power outages having FM available in their cellphones could have been a lifeline. So says the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which has been advocating for FM in mobile devices for years.

We are used to receiving push-alerts on our mobile device from a variety of news sources in order to stay informed, but what if you were affected by a disaster in your area, cell service went down, and you lost your normal sources of information – where would you turn to find out what is going on? NAB maintains that FM radio in your mobile device would be the best source of current, local emergency information. It is interesting to note that the new Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) ends weather alerts and other messages with the phrase, “Check local media”. Currently, FM radio is only available in a limited number of mobile devices. The cellular carrier industry notes that there are presently 59 models that receive FM radio, but says it has not activated FM chips in more devices because of low consumer demand for this feature. So if you feel FM radio in your mobile device is a value to you, make it known to your cellular carrier.

A pair of articles in Radio World Magazine point out that this issue is getting attention from the U.S. government. In June, the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee heard testimony from a broadcast industry executive on this topic. He noted that while NAB is not asking for an FM chip mandate, it does want discussion and a congressional study. In the latest article, Radio World reports that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has organized a meeting on this topic to include broadcasters and wireless industry representatives set for July 20. It will be interesting to see if the federal government takes a more active role in this debate. AWARE will track further developments on FM in mobile devices.

What do you think – is FM in your mobile device a value to you? Leave us your comments here on AWARE.

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2 Responses to Do you have FM in your cellphone?

  1. As an emergency manager and amateur radio enthusiast, I’m more likely to want an amateur radio with an FM receiver than I am to want a cellular phone device.

    The former already exists in the Wouxun handheld devices (http://www.wouxun.us) while it is technically possible to add FM to the handheld cell device, it’s going to drive up cost.

    In the mean time, broadcasters would be better served by streaming their information over the web, ex. tunein.com and teaching their listeners how to make their cell devices more resilient during power outages, etc.

  2. avatar Skip says:

    I am not sure the NAB is speaking in complete good faith. But rather using this issue as a tie-in for stations to gain dwindling audience shares. During a high impact or disaster event (90% are weather related) how many stations will still be on the air, if the are on, do they have that staffing or news gather resources? Don;t count on cell phone or internet. Everyone knows its the first to go down. During the June floods in Duluth WI, internet, cell, and 9-1-1 were down for 12 hours. Here in Milwaukee getting hard news on FM can be a initial challenge since so many are music formats or automated during some day parts. Its even difficult at times just to get a weather forecast from some stations. For news and information I will first go to the dominant AM’s in town before I seek a FM’er. The dominant AM’s usually have a TV ownership and bigger news gathering sources.

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