After rampage in Hamburg: Cell broadcast did not work on Telefónica


Cell broadcast is now used as a warning system to quickly inform people in emergencies. That was also the case with the killing spree last Thursday in Hamburg. In one of the first tests, however, the system did not work for all providers. According to Der Spiegel, Telefónica did not send a warning.

During the killing spree on March 9, an attacker killed seven people and himself, many more were injured. In the meantime, however, the police received indications that a second perpetrator could be seen – which later turned out to be a mistake. As the mirror reports, the police warned the population to be on the safe side. It was the first time the alerts were sent via cell broadcast.

Warning did not occur at Telefónica

That was the case around 10:30 p.m., the warning was given in the Alsterdorf district. “Danger from life-threatening situation” was in the warning message, residents should avoid the crime scene and not go outside. According to Spiegel information, the warning was only given via the Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone networks. With Telefónica, on the other hand, the system did not send a message, so o2 customers did not receive a message.

A spokesman for the company confirmed the failure. “We are sorry that there was no outstanding cell broadcast report last week,” he said, according to the Spiegel report. The network operator did not give any reasons for the failure. Instead, reference is made to the exchange with the responsible authorities.

The position of the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, which is responsible for cell broadcast operations, is similar. When asked by Spiegel, the authority explained that the “transition to effective operation of cell broadcast” would reveal “fine adjustments that are still necessary”. In this case it would be “configuration requirements of technical components with the mobile network operators, which have to be coordinated with each other”.

Cell Broadcast now officially in use

Cell broadcast was officially launched in Germany on February 23 of this year; in many other countries, the technology has been in use for over ten years in some cases. The introduction was a consequence of the flood disaster in summer 2021, when the existing warning infrastructure failed. A test run was carried out on the nationwide warning day on December 8, 2022.

With cell broadcast, network operators send the warning to all devices that are logged into certain radio cells. The solution is considered data protection compliant because the signal is basically sent in the same way as with radio.

Smartphone models must support cell broadcast

Cell broadcast is required a smartphone model that meets the requirements for the German implementation of the technology. The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance offers a list of receiver-capable and non-receiver-capable devices.