In June of 1996, the FCC proposed a mandate for E-911 services. The wireless E911 order provides value-added service for all cellular phone users and consumers. This regulation has designed to implement 911 requirements for cellular, PCS and SMR carriers. The FCC has established telecommunication regulations to provide 911 access to consumers. The requirements have been planned in a three-stage deployment process.
However, it was later revamped into a two-phase process. This regulation (CC Docket No. 94-102) has many different parts, which are currently under reconsideration by the FCC. Basically, the regulation requires that MLTS (Multi-Line Telephone System) providers to provide emergency service by single line residential, business telephone service and wireless services whether telephone services are in service or not. As my employer is a wireless telephone provider, I will be focusing on the wireless regulations associated with CC Docket No. 94-102.
The FCC requires all cellular service providers to accept 911 calls from any wireless phone. Even those phones that have no service contract or number assigned. With wireless calls, a user should be able to dial 911 and reach a 911 operator whether the cellular telephone is under contract and in service or not. These calls for emergency assistance are free of charge. As a call is made for any 911 emergency, the cellular provider’s system will route the call to the nearest 911 operator. Thus acting as a locating service for the user and the emergency operations. This mandated will take effect on October of 2001.
The new FCC regulation provides both challenges and barriers to telecommunication providers. There are three major issues each provider must overcome. The first is how to determine the past way to provide the mandated service to consumers. Each carrier must deploy the technology to provider the caller’s location. Secondly, which mode is best to accomplish the task at hand via network or cellular phones? Currently, carrier can provide emergency personnel the name, address and other necessary information about a caller, if that caller is a current subscriber to their network. However, there are limitations to callers who are not current cellular subscriber. Thirdly, this service must be provided whether the cellular service is active or not.
Not only must the provider supply 911 access, as Phase II of the regulation; they must also provide location services. This service will enable emergency providers to locate the person calling 911 for assistance. Without this service, emergency personnel may not find a confused or injured consumer in a timely manner. Carriers are not in the process of defining and implementing technologies to their networks to provide these new location-based services. My current employer has deployed their location-based service.
The billing and location technology has caused a great amount of delay in the deployment of the technology. From information obtained from the International Data Corporation (IDC), their report indicates that instead of waiting for Phase II, carriers should begin offering the services based on general location as soon as they have the technology deployed1. Phase II requires service providers to forward the location coordinates of a caller along with a number identification. The location of the caller is to be within 125 feet of the caller’s actual location. Below is an example of the process a call goes through in order to comply with the regulation.
The above diagramed process requires 7 steps.
- Call is recognized by the mobile center.
- Center contacts a service control provider.
- Service Provider gives the center routing information so the call is sent to the nears PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point)
- Caller’s information is sent back to the base station.
- Location information is sent from Service Control Provider to PSAP Database.
- Call is then routed to a 911Operator.
This process requires each cellular/wireless provider to enact the same processes whether through their current network system or via cellular handsets. Which brings us to the second issue with this regulation.
As Phase II quickly approaches, each provider must come up with and implement their plan of action to comply with the service diagramed previously. Each provider must decide if this task can be accomplished via his or her current network or via Global Position Station handsets.
Currently, must wireless carriers are attempting to use GPS handsets to comply with the E-911 location-tracking regulations. The FCC has now allowed extra time to carriers to comply with location tracking. Mobile/Cellular carriers now have until December 31, 2005 to comply with GPS-equipped handsets in markets they have determined to rely on for location technology.
The new order also extends the deadline from October 1, 2000 to November 9, 200 as the deadline to inform the FCC of whether the carrier will be using hand set based GPS or network based tracking system in each market. Whichever decision a carrier makes, the system must be able to locate the user locations within 125 meters 67% of the time.
Should a handset solution be determined, most users would need to purchase new cellular phones. Which as of now, these forms of phones are not currently available. Carriers would have to develop such a GPS phone for use in their markets. My employer (Sprint PCS) has developed such GPS phones but these phones will not be deployed until late 2003 – 2004 depending on the results from months of testing. Providers currently have three years to deploy such GPS enabled phones to their subscribers.
The network-based solution must also comply with the 67% rule. However, the subscriber’s would need to be in a coverage area that his/her signal could reach 2 to 3 base stations. This would cause dense coverage of each market area. Thus causing more signal towers and switching station to be built in each market. Thus consumer would see an abundance of large silver towers every 2-10 miles.
In a recent report by my employer the pros and cons were listed for each method:
- Covers all subscribersLittle networking equipment
- Lack of PrivacyContinuous Tracking
- May not work in rural areasMust replace current handsets
- Build out of new areasNeeds the support of manufacturers
The third and final issue of Docket 94-102 is the use of cellular phones for emergency calls that are not currently activated or have not services. According to the regulation, even if a consumer uses a cellular phone that is not active and has not contracted services with a provider, the phone should reach a 911 emergency operator.
The advantage of this part of the regulation to consumer is the convenience of having access to 911 whether you are a cellular user or not. Consumers with older cellular phones, as long as the battery is operational can use this phone to dial 911 and reach emergency personnel. Consumer who do not wish to have a service agreement, but prefer the safety of having 911 access now have that ability. Refurbished and older cellular phones are readily available through cellular providers and over the Internet. This is perfect for those consumer who would like to have a way to reach police, fire or ambulance service in case of a motorist emergency.
Imagine if you did not have a cellular phone with 911 capabilities and you had an accident late in the evening in a dark area. You would have not way of reaching emergency personnel. Now thanks to the FCC, if this hypothetical situation were to occur, you could simply turn on your cellular phone, dial 911 and have help on the way.
The FCC did all consumers a favor when they passed this regulation. Not only does it keep consumers safe, but also it allows all of us some form of security. Telecommunication/Cellular providers were also provided with an added bonus by this regulation. Those consumers who do not currently have mobile/cellular contracts will be purchasing cellular phones. Whether these phones are every activated or not, consumer will need to purchase them from somewhere. Most consumers will activate the phones, even just basic service. This increases revenues for the cellular providers. There is a silver lining for everyone with the regulation.
- Pottorf, Callie. Location-Based Services. International Data Corporation. September 1998. URL: Http;//10.101.156.13.mktres/idc/idcfiles/17130.htm
- The New York Times. Old Cell phones Provide 911 Calls. Page 5 Column 6, March 16, 2000. c. 2000 NewYork Times, Company.
- Sprint PCS Announces E911 Solution. November 9, 2000. Sprint PCS News