FCC Rules GPS Must Be In VoIP, Cell Phones For E911 Tracking

October 8, 2011

According to this ruling by the FCC all wireless providers and VoIP services are required to use GPS tracking technology to provide E911 services to their customers and the government. The idea behind the ruling is to create a more reliable and faster working location finding mechanism for people who are making distressed phone calls. The deadline for adhering to the new guidelines is going to be 2018.

The new ruling effectually requires that GPS exist in all devices by removing provisions for network-based tracking solutions.

With GPS already on the rise in the US market with the boom of smartphones there is little doubt that wireless carrier and cell phone manufacturers will be able to comply with this new standard. As it is, the FCC already estimates that 85% of cell phones will contain the necessary GPS technology by the proposed deadline.

The real problem associated with the ruling is VoIP technology. Programs like Skype or Google Voice will have to piggy back off of cell phone GPS tracking in order to comply with the order. When these programs are used on a device like an iPad, laptop, or desktop computer the issues can be compounded. Where will the location information come from?

2018 is still a long way off and there could be significant changes to VoIP technology as we approach the deadline, but most consumers stand to benefit from this move – it will mean more location based programs for cell phones for all users.

Here is a the summary from the FCC ruling:

In this document, the Commission continues to strengthen its existing Enhanced 911 (E911) location accuracy regime for wireless carriers by retaining the existing handset-based and network based location accuracy standards and the eight-year implementation period established in the September 2010 E911 Location Accuracy Second Report and Order but providing for phasing out the network-standard over time. We also require all Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers, launching new stand-alone networks, to comply with the handset-based location criteria, regardless of the location technology they actually use. In addition, we will require wireless carriers to periodically test their outdoor E911 location accuracy results and to share the results with Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), state 911 offices, and the Commission, subject to confidentiality safeguards.

Sources: TechCrunch, Electronista, InformationWeek

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Zola Harbeson April 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm

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