911 Access

VoIP E911: what’s new for 2016?

Jay Slater
Jay Slater
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When I think about my friends and family, I personally believe that a 911 call is the most important call a person might ever make. Most people I know just expect 911 to work, no matter whatand wherever they go. For the communications providers we at Bandwidth support every day, meeting consumers’ 911 service needs is a technological challenge we embrace beyond basic regulatory compliance.

I recently shared some information, together with Bandwidth’s Deputy General Counsel Greg Rogers, during a webinar on VoIP 911 trends in 2016. For VoIP providers, the ability to deliver the 911 services we all expect to work is a huge deal. Here are four of the biggest challenges our customers are facing in today’s marketplace:

1) 911 for VoIP is not the same as 911 over landlines

Unique situations apply for providers delivering 911 calls with VoIP services and those conditions become even more complicated when VoIP offerings evolve into mobile applications (as they increasingly do!).

In order to deliver effective 911 service to end-users, VoIP providers need to work closely with a VoIP Positioning Center (VPC) that’s familiar with the nuances of 911 in IP formats. The VPC also needs to understand both FCC requirements as well as proper call routing methodologies to deliver the most robust E911 services possible.

2) Errors and outages get noticed

When critical 911 services fail due to outages or system issues, VoIP providers run into troublenot only with their customers but with regulators as well. Many of today’s regulations are geared toward the more traditional landline replacement-style IVoIP offerings. This can create gaps between what is being offered in the marketplace relative to the regulations on the books. Service providers would be wise to avoid falling into those gaps unprepared, however.

3) VoIP is going (more) mobile

No surprise here.  A plethora of applications for mobile VoIP continues to explodefrom OTT applications on smartphones to myriad styles of web-based RTC… consumers expect to be connected wherever they go and VoIP providers are stepping up to the plate and delivering more than ever before. But where does that leave 911 service? Well, it’s up to VoIP providers to make sure they’ve got the right partners in place to deliver their 911 calls the way that PSAPs expect to receive them.

4) Wireless is relying more on WiFi than ever before

Although we all continue to live increasingly mobile lifestyles, travel tends to be sporadic throughout the day combined with “staying put” for large chunks of time. These behavioral tendencies have fostered the ability to take advantage of inexpensive WiFi connectivity whenever an open network pops up on our smartphone screens. So, what does that mean for 911?

Anytime consumers are using WiFi…at the coffee shop down the street or in the student library, at the local shopping mall or a park…they (and our good friends at the FCC) expect 911 to work without fail. That’s why it’s critical for any service provider dealing in VoIP and cellular technologies to pay attention to 911 requirementsin 2016 and beyond.