Industry is working to meet the first phase of new wireless 911 requirements this year to make an Oct. 1 government deadline.
“Working out the exchange of information is the lion’s share of work right now for implementing Phase I,” said Eric Sorensen, product marketing manager of SCC Communications Corp., which advises wireless carriers on 911 options.
One state is helping its wireless carriers absorb the cost associated with carrying out these federal edicts. The Arkansas state legislature recently approved a 50-cent monthly service charge to cellular telephone bills in that state, which will be used to offset the cost of implementing wireless 911 service. The legislature also created a board to disburse those funds.
The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that wireless carriers must work with local Public Safety Answering Points to coordinate information when a wireless caller dials 911 for emergency help. The FCC wants all wireless calls passed from the carrier to the PSAP, including calls made from wireless phones for which service has not been initiated.
Some carriers are worried about the FCC’s position on non-initiated phone calls: While some carriers already pass them on, others want to only pass on customer calls.
More than a dozen petitions for reconsideration have been filed with the FCC about wireless 911. Today, landline calls coming into the PSAP contain both voice and location information. When a wireless caller dials 911, only the voice information is passed through to the PSAP. Sometimes roaming callers can’t connect to any 911 service because the switch doesn’t validate the call.
“One solution is that if you call 911, it doesn’t validate but sends the call straight through,” said David Wye, technical adviser to the chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecom Bureau.
“The governments of this country have spent a lot of time and money teaching everyone to call 911. We want to, as much as possible, build on the success we’ve had with that,” Wye said.
The FCC has set two initial time lines for implementation of wireless 911: April 1, 1998, for Phase I, and Oct. 1, 2001 for Phase 2.
Phase I will provide the PSAP with the wireless caller’s 10-digit phone number and a cell-site location. The FCC expects carriers and local PSAPs by October to have worked out the process for sharing the information needed to provide 911 service.
When the second phase of the edict is implemented, wireless carriers must be able to provide the PSAP the caller’s latitude and longitude, within a radius of at least 125 meters.
Network standards for Phase I wireless 911 are expected to be announced by the TR 45 work group by the end of the month.
Two things must happen for Phase I to be implemented, said Sorensen. First, connectivity between the wireless and local phone 911 network must be established. Wireless carriers must remedy switches that don’t pass along enough information.
And carriers must install location reporting equipment at the cell site. The Associated Group Inc. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., has created the TruePosition solution.
In TruePosition, the wireless mobile switching center is configured to provider caller Automatic Number Identification, or ANI, and cell site identity to the 911 tandem switch. Cell sites and sectors are assigned unique 10-digit identity numbers, or pseudo-ANIs.
The caller’s ANI is transmitted in one 10-digit field and the cell site’s pseudo-ANI is sent in a second 10-digit field.
Ameritech Corp. recently created a partnership with Boulder, Colo.-based SCC to begin complying fully with Phase I, and the partners intend to work toward Phase II. SCC will provide Ameritech with selective routing technology.
Phase II involves transmitting the x/y coordinate, or latitude and longitude. A 90-day trial of a Phase II service recently was completed on the New Jersey Turnpike. The trial involved SCC, The Associated Group, Bell Atlantic Corp., Comcast Cellular Communications Inc., New Jersey and Gloucester County emergency officials, KML Technology and Rockwell Telecommunications.
Although the FCC wants to see wireless 911 reality, it won’t take a stand on how the changes are funded. Those mechanisms must be worked out by the carriers and PSAPs. Legislation has just been passed or is on the table in many states.