In this paper we present and discuss the performance of the procedure for earthquake location and characterization implemented in the Italian Candidate Tsunami Service Provider at the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) in Rome. Following the ICG/NEAMTWS guidelines, the first tsunami warning messages are based only on seismic information, i.e., epicenter location, hypocenter depth, and magnitude, which are automatically computed by the software Early-est. Early-est is a package for rapid location and seismic/tsunamigenic characterization of earthquakes. The Early-est software package operates using offline-event or continuous-real-time seismic waveform data to perform trace processing and picking, and, at a regular report interval, phase association, event detection, hypocenter location, and event characterization. Early-est also provides mb, Mwp, and Mwpd magnitude estimations. mb magnitudes are preferred for events with Mwp ≲ 5.8, while Mwpd estimations are valid for events with Mwp ≳ 7.2. In this paper we present the earthquake parameters computed by Early-est between the beginning of March 2012 and the end of December 2014 on a global scale for events with magnitude M ≥ 5.5, and we also present the detection timeline. We compare the earthquake parameters automatically computed by Early-est with the same parameters listed in reference catalogs. Such reference catalogs are manually revised/verified by scientists. The goal of this work is to test the accuracy and reliability of the fully automatic locations provided by Early-est. In our analysis, the epicenter location, hypocenter depth and magnitude parameters do not differ significantly from the values in the reference catalogs. Both mb and Mwp magnitudes show differences to the reference catalogs. We thus derived correction functions in order to minimize the differences and correct biases between our values and the ones from the reference catalogs. Correction of the Mwp distance dependency is particularly relevant, since this magnitude refers to the larger and probably tsunamigenic earthquakes. Mwp values at stations with epicentral distance Δ ≲ 30° are significantly overestimated with respect to the CMT-global solutions, whereas Mwp values at stations with epicentral distance Δ ≳ 90° are slightly underestimated. After applying such distance correction the Mwp provided by Early-est differs from CMT-global catalog values of about δ Mwp ≈ 0.0 ∓ 0.2. Early-est continuously acquires time-series data and updates the earthquake source parameters. Our analysis shows that the epicenter coordinates and the magnitude values converge within less than 10 min (5 min in the Mediterranean region) toward the stable values. Our analysis shows that we can compute Mwp magnitudes that do not display short epicentral distance dependency overestimation, and we can provide robust and reliable earthquake source parameters to compile tsunami warning messages within less than 15 min after the event origin time.