Foreign Office trials text messaging service in a crisis

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Vodafone UK customers who take their mobile phones overseas may now find their phone is more than just a handy way to stay in touch with friends and family.

The Foreign Office has launched a trial service with the network provider to deliver emergency text messages to their subscribers as well as to customers of any mobile provider whose service runs on Vodafone’s network. The text will be sent out to customers who are in a country where there has been a major crisis - such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

The service is free to customers of the mobile providers taking part in the trial and will provide essential advice in the event of a crisis. The Foreign Office will pilot this service for a 12 month period.

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said:

“The recent consular crises in Libya and Japan have demonstrated the need to deliver live travel safety messages to as many people as quickly as possible. This new service is part of our vision to deliver better consular services more cost-effectively and we’re delighted to be working with Vodafone UK and a number of partners on the pilot. We hope in the future we will be able to roll out this service with other mobile network operators and mobile providers.”

“The pilot is part of the Foreign Office’s commitment to improve consular services. We will soon have the ability to send text messages to all affected British Nationals registered on our crisis database. As well as this we’re also exploring delivering important information through a range of mobile and online tools, including Smartphone apps, a travel advice site for mobile phones and making effective use of social media and digital tools.”

The text messaging pilot will not replace any existing services and information provided in the texts will continue to be provided on the Foreign Office website, and the FCO Travel Facebook and Twitter channels.

The mobile providers taking part in this trial are: Vodafone UK, Asda Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Talkmobile, Talk Talk, BT Mobile, Gamma Telecom and Cognatel and their MVNOs.