Emergency services get automatic access to cell tower info

Triple Zero will soon be able to automatically obtain the location of mobile callers using tower information shared by Australia's three mobile network operators.

Triple Zero operators will soon be able to more quickly determine the location of mobile users making calls to the emergency line, with Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone providing automatic access to cell tower information to the service.

Industry association Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton announced on Tuesday that new capabilities have been put in place with the three telcos, meaning that "enhanced location information" based on the adjacent mobile tower sites will be able to be sent to police, fire, and ambulance operators at the time of the call.

"Currently, mobile calls account for around 66 percent of calls made to Triple Zero. Until now, emergency calls from mobile phones have not automatically provided location information in relation to the adjacent mobile cell towers that the emergency call is being made from," Stanton said in a statement.

"This is not an issue for the majority of mobile calls made to Triple Zero, as in most cases, the caller can tell the emergency service organisation where they are located, but there are times when callers are distressed, injured, confused, or unfamiliar with their surrounding environment -- making it difficult for them to report their location."

It will take around nine months for the telcos to implement changes in their systems to provide access to cell tower location information.

Stanton said that the access to the data was made possible by the telcos working with emergency services, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency -- which is soon to be absorbed into the Department of Communications.

"We recognise the investment of significant resources and expertise by the mobile carriers and national Triple Zero service operator to deliver this important public safety initiative," ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement.

Despite access to the information being made easier for Triple Zero workers, Stanton said that callers to emergency services should still provide details on their location when calling Triple Zero.