FCC proposes new rules for network and handheld providers

Deltek Analyst Kristin Howe reports.

On July 12, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established new rules to enable public safety answering points (PSAPs) to obtain more accurate information regarding the location of someone who calls an enhanced 911-capable PSAP. The new requirements were established in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Third Report and Order, and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

At present, there are two ways for an enhanced or next generation 911-enabled PSAP to determine the location of a caller. One is through the network; the other is through the handset itself. A “network-based” locating system means the network provider (T-mobile, Verizon, etc.) determines the location by triangulating the call, determining what three cell towers are close to the phone, and seeing where those areas overlap. In handset location, a global positioning system chip or other component embedded in the cell phone alerts the PSAP to the caller’s location. At a July 12 meeting, the FCC directed a new set of initiatives requiring mobile phone producers and network providers to decrease the location range provided to the PSAPs over the next eight years. The given location must be within 50–150 meters for handhelds, and between 100-300 meters for networks. The FCC also established a long-term goal of eliminating the less precise, network-based locating altogether, though no specific deadline was established.

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