Testing the Response of Mobile Phones to Wireless Public Alerts (Report Summary)


In January 2020, the CRTC, together with the federal Communications Research Centre Canada, tested different mobile phones to see how they respond to wireless public alerts. This testing was done due to complaints the alerts were still audible even if the device was set to silent or do-not-disturb mode.

Public alerts are potentially life-saving urgent messages that are sent via the National Public Alerting System to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. To receive an alert, the devices must be connected to an LTE (long-term evolution) or newer wireless network.

In Canada, all wireless service providers must participate in the National Public Alerting System. However, the CRTC does not regulate the companies that make mobile devices.

Key findings

Not all phones react the same way

Our tests found that not all wireless devices react the same way to public alerts.

Depending on your device, you may be able to choose how your phone alerts you. For example, some devices can be set to vibrate or remain completely silent, or play the alert sound at a lower volume. However, the ability to silence or control the volume of an alert depends on the make, model and operating system of the device.

Not all phones meet Canadian alerting standards

Devices that are purchased outside of Canada or directly from the manufacturer may not meet Canadian alerting standards and guidelines.

If you need help verifying the notification settings for public alerts on your device, please contact your service provider or the company that made your mobile device.

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