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Government seeking Triple Zero IP-based calls provider

The Triple Zero call system will soon be transitioning to an IP-based environment, with the government also wanting more accurate location-based information from mobile calls.

The Australian government has put out a request for expressions of interest (EOI) for carriers to provide an "enhanced" Triple Zero emergency call service to keep up with evolving technologies, as well as an EOI process for solutions to allow location-based information from mobile phone emergency calls to be sent automatically.

The EOI processes are in response to 2014's Review of the National Triple Zero (000) Operator, which recommended that the Triple Zero service be transitioned to an IP environment.

"Australians' expectations regarding emergency assistance have changed since Triple Zero was introduced as a voice-only service in 1961, when fixed-line telephones were the primary means of communication," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said on Thursday.

"Today, the majority of calls to Triple Zero come from mobile phones, and the rapid development of new technologies has enabled a range of new communications options. The EOI process is the latest step in ensuring all Australians have access to a world-class service which can keep pace with new and innovative technologies."

The Implementation Plan from the review said an IP-based environment would provide more opportunities for the existing systems.

"The future of Triple Zero will need to reflect an IP-based environment, which will offer greater flexibility and opportunities to work with stakeholders to enhance and implement existing functionality," the plan says.

The Implementation Plan also said the government would commence market testing during 2016 for developing "an innovative solution enabling location coordinates to be automatically disclosed to Triple Zero during an emergency call from a mobile phone".

This could be done through a new smartphone app or an update to the existing Emergency+ app, the government said, providing emergency services including ambulance, fire, and police departments with more precise location coordinates.

The government is requesting submissions for location-based solutions by October 14.

The EOI process comes despite Triple Zero review recommending that the government postpone the tender for an Emergency Call Person for Triple Zero for up to two years to allow for the location-based solution to be implemented first.

"Delaying the tender will provide time to clarify the future technical requirements of the national Triple Zero operator, work with stakeholders on governance arrangements, and fully implement location-based technologies for mobile calls to Triple Zero," the Implementation Plan said.

"This will ultimately ensure greater contestability in a future tender process."

Telstra is currently the Emergency Call Person.

Following the Triple Zero review, Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Australia agreed to provide automatic access to location-based cell tower information to emergency services back in December 2014, although they noted that it could take up to nine months to implement changes in their systems.

Telstra last month also announced that it is opening its national public safety mobile broadband capacity, LANES, for law-enforcement and emergency services to use during summer 2016-17.

Telstra's LANES service dedicates specific "lanes" of spectrum for allocated purposes, with emergency services to have guaranteed priority access to a specific part of the mobile network -- initially, up to 160MHz in the 700MHz LTE spectrum band.

Two LANES solutions are on offer: Telstra LANES Emergency Priority, an out-of-the-box solution that includes a LANES SIM for use in smart devices, with access to a 24/7 national help desk and an online portal; and Telstra LANES Emergency Tailored, which will involve customer-owned dedicated spectrum augmented or enhanced by access to Telstra's 4G spectrum.

The telco has said its solution could save the Australian government AU$4 billion over the next 20 years if it is extended to public safety agencies nationwide.