Wireless Priority Service (WPS)

WPS Wireless Priority Service: For essential personnel and government decision makers during emergencies

Wireless telecommunications can play a vital role in how you coordinate and respond to an emergency. If you are part of a business continuity plan (BCP), Wireless Priority Service (WPS) may be for you.

During an emergency, many people use wireless phones, and congestion on these networks is possible. WPS ensures priority access to wireless networks by providing qualified subscribers with the next available wireless channel on an antenna tower. WPS is available to essential personnel responsible for public safety, emergency preparedness, continuity of government and other critical services.

With Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada support, WPS is offered by two Canadian wireless service providers. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada approves WPS applications and maintains the database of essential personnel who qualify. The service providers charge user fees for priority access to their networks.

Quick links

WPS frequently asked questions

What is WPS?

WPS is an enhancement to basic mobile service that allows registered essential personnel calls to queue for the next available service channel while minimizing impact on regular consumer access to the same wireless infrastructure. WPS will not terminate calls in progress. Since it is simply giving subscribers priority access to an antenna tower for outgoing calls, it does not guarantee the completion of the call, which still has to travel through other parts of the network. It does however mitigate congestion on the local tower, which is important during emergencies.


When and how do I use WPS? - Dial *272

Most congestion happens at the antenna tower. Should your tower become congested, activate WPS by dialling *272 on your WPS-enabled mobile phone, prior to the destination number. For example dial *272 613-555-1111. Your call will be placed in a queue for 30 seconds and given priority to the next available radio channel. If a queue of WPS users has formed, they will be served in WPS priority order. Should you not connect during those 30 seconds, retry your call.

Handsets must have access to your service provider's 2G network. At this time, 3G networks do not support WPS.

Associated fees

Who should have WPS?

WPS is intended for use by personnel who have emergency, public safety, continuity of government, or other critical service responsibilities. If you are part of a BCP (business continuity plan) you may be eligible for WPS.

There are various WPS priority levels, and access to the antenna tower is granted using these rankings. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada authorizes users for WPS through an online tool called the Emergency Telecommunications Data System (ETDS).


What are the WPS priority levels?

  • Priority Level 1 - Executive Leadership and Decision Makers
  • Priority Level 2 - Disaster Response/Military Command and Control
  • Priority Level 3 - Public Health and Safety and Law Enforcement Command
  • Priority Level 4 - Public Service/Utilities and Public Welfare
  • Priority Level 5 - Disaster Recovery

Examples are available for each WPS priority level to help you determine which best suits your type of work.


Is there a cost to this service?

Yes. Your mobile provider may charge an activation fee, a monthly fee and per minute fee, once a WPS call is initiated, which varies from your basic package.


How do I get WPS?

Many organizations already have Group Managers registered with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for priority services requests. Group Mangers submit requests online via the Emergency Telecommunications Data System (ETDS).


WPS Detailed Process - Updated January 2010

  1. 1- Contact your organization's ETDS Group Manager to ensure you are eligible for WPS within your organization, and if so, to request the service.

    Group Managers are normally people involved in emergency planning or in telecommunications services.

    See Contact Emergency Telecom if you require assistance in identifying your Group Manager.

  2. Enter into a contract with a service provider who offers WPS and obtain a handset that is compatible with 2G networks (at this time, 3G networks do not support WPS) or be prepared to manually select the 2G network, by changing your phone options, before placing a WPS call.
  3. Notify your Group Manager of your mobile number and he/she will enter your information, including your WPS priority level, into Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's ETDS, and will request WPS for your mobile phone.

    This initiates the activation process.

    Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will verify your WPS priority level and reserves the right to modify it and/or to revoke WPS.

  1. Once Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada approves the priority level, the Group Manager, the owner of the phone and the wireless service provider receive a notification email that WPS has been requested.
  2. The wireless service provider contacts the Group Manager and the owner of the phone within 3-5 business days to confirm activation of WPS.

    Where possible, clients receive a text message on their mobile phone once WPS has been activated. An email is also sent to the client.

How do I know WPS is activated?

You can test for WPS by dialling *272 followed by a telephone number. If you have WPS, the call will complete (you will hear a phone ring at the other end). If you do not have WPS, you will hear a repeating and progressive tone (unlike a busy signal).

If you have followed all the above steps and do not see the monthly WPS fee on your wireless phone bill, call your service provider to confirm the service has been activated. You may also contact your Group Manager to follow up.


How do I deactivate WPS?

If you would like to remove WPS from a phone number, notify your Group Manager. Group Managers can refer to the ETDS User Guide for detailed instructions.


Can I keep WPS when I am move to another organization and take my mobile phone number?

If you are continuing in a position which requires WPS and planning on taking your current phone to another department or organization, your information must be moved within Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's database, the ETDS, to your new Group Manager. Your email address and other contact information must also be updated. Your Group Manager can contact Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada ETDS support to ensure a smooth transition. You can also contact your regional Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada representative.


Which Canadian service providers offer WPS?

Only Rogers Communications Inc. offers WPS on its GSM, 2G/Edge network across Canada.


Will WPS work when I am in the United States?

As of January 2010, WPS mobile customers on GSM networks will enjoy cross-border roaming privileges for Wireless Priority Service in the United States. ATandT and T-Mobile have extended their roaming relationship with Rogers Communications Inc. to include WPS.

If you are in the U.S., roaming on either ATandT or T-Mobile, and experiencing network congestion, dial *272 and your destination number to make a priority call.


Does WPS work on 3G networks?

WPS works only on 2G networks. If you have a "smart phone" or 3G device, you must manually set your device to use the carrier's 2G network. If you are unsure about how to do this, or whether your phone is 2G or 3G, consult the user manual for your particular model of phone.


How often should I test WPS?

Exercising or testing any service you plan to rely on during an emergency is an excellent idea. Without excising and testing, you run the risk of forgetting how and when to use a service. You may even discover that someone on your response team doesn't have a service he or she requires for emergency response.

BCP coordinators can incorporate WPS into their exercises, even when network congestion is not a factor. Contact Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for more suggestions on exercising emergency telecommunications at WPS information

You may also consider putting a sticker on the back of your phone with "WPS *272" as a reminder for the owner of the phone.



To obtain more information and/or the name of your Group Manager, contact: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's National Telecommunications Security group at WPS information.

You can also contact your regional Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada representative.

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