At the CTIA VoIP Mobility Conference late yesterday, I listened to Level 3 Communications vice president of E-911 Product Development William Clay recite some impediments to optimal 9-1-1 service- both VoIP and over standard phone lines.
Among the issues E-911 infrastructure issues Clay mentioned that need solving include:
No support for mobile end points;
Early implementations require subscriber self-registration, meaning a subscriber has to know their physical address and submit it correctly;
Selective router single point of failure, such as witnessed during and after Hurricane Katrina when the failure of individual PSAP routers disabled significant portions of the emergency alert system in the affected region;
Decentralized access to Public Safety Answering Points;
Limited PSAP capabilities for emergency response data transfer between the PSAPs and emergency response agencies; such as video from an emergency response scene;
Mandated but as-yet not enforced regulatory compliance to carriers for E911 access;
Smooth "call continuity" handoff across disparate networks, such as cellular, Wi-Fi and WiMAX;
Lack of near-real time automatic locatoin detection, such as a summons for E911 help from occupants in a moving vehicle;
The need for enhanced abilities of PSAPs to transfer calls to other PSAPs better situated to handle these requests;
More frequent use of remote PSAPs at disaster-recovery scenes;
Clay then cited several E 9-1-1 issues especially relevant to VoIP:
Inter-carrier peering, such as calling from one VoIP provider to a number registered with another VoIP provider. The fact that such calls are routed over the Public Switched Carrier Network is problematic, Clay pointed out.
Call continuity for VoIP-enabled, multimode handsets that may be in range of other modes, such as Wi-Fi and cell. "If I take my phone to work, I want to make sure that switching occurs seamlessly," said Clay.
Real-time address validation for nomadic use. "Right now, the onus is on the subscriber," he pointed out.
Investigation of GPS-equipped handhelds to provide real-time address validation, while working on ways for assisted GPS to narrow the average 15 seconds it takes GPS to acquire a signal that can pinpoint a user's location.
"There's a need for GPS, as well as other (technologies) that can localize that call," Clay emphasized.