WASHINGTON-The location problems inherent to enhanced 911 calls made by wireless users could be solved within the next five years if the Federal Communications Commission adopts a new plan forwarded by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and several public-safety concerns.

“Eighteen million times a year, a wireless subscriber uses his/her mobile phone to call public-safety agencies,” said CTIA President Thomas Wheeler. “Because of the mobile nature of such communications, however, it is not always possible to know the location of the calling party. This agreement establishes a process which, over the next five years, will enable greater accuracy in pinpointing the location of an emergency call.”

Instrumental in crafting the agreement were the National Emergency Number Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International Inc. and the National Association of State 911 Administrators. The agreement covers not only the future location-identification of cellular subscribers who make emergency calls but also of users of two-way, personal communications services and enhanced specialized mobile radio equipment. “We are fiercely agnostic when it comes to technology,” Wheeler said.

The consensus agreement was spearheaded by Mary A. Boyd, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based Advisory Commission on State Emergency Communications. Designed as an answer to the commission’s ongoing notice regarding wireless compatibility with existing E911 services, the proposal is comprised of four principles:

Speedy rollout of Phase 1, which would provide cell-site implementation and automatic number identification, thus allowing emergency dispatchers to provide callback service.

Eliminating the commission’s proposal to require the provision of approximate direction and distance from the cell site, a requirement CTIA calls “a costly orphan technology that does not meet the needs of the public-safety community.”

Implementing within five years of technology that can locate a caller to within 125 meters Root Mean Square (exact longitude and latitude).

Wireless users will foot the bill for building and maintaining the E911 location mechanism via a fee-determined by state or local jurisdictions-attached to the monthly service bill. This fee will not be higher than the current fees assessed to wireline users-about 75 cents-for implementing 911 services. Agencies can begin system buildout as soon as FCC approval is granted. Major metropolitan areas that already have an E911 backbone in place will be deployed first; tests are ongoing in parts of Texas and New Jersey.

Phase 1 of the proposed system could be realized in as few as 18 months, allowing an E911 dispatcher to locate the cell from which the wireless call was made. The more sophisticated Phase 2 would allow for location by triangulation. Provisions will be written into the proposal to accommodate speech- and hearing-impaired users.


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