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Coalition Urges FCC to Establish Requirements for Indoor 9-1-1 Location (6/21/13)
A coalition promoting 9-1-1 location sent an open letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, saying the FCC should establish a location requirement for wireless calls placed indoors. Jamie Barnett, former chief of the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, is the director.

Find Me 911 is an effort supported by more than 85,000 individuals and organizations representing a broad range of 9-1-1 operators, first responders and EMS personnel, the letter said. Find Me 911 seeks to ensure that 9-1-1 enables first responders to quickly and efficiently locate emergency calls placed from wireless phones in all locations.

“Despite the fact that the majority of calls to 9-1-1 originate from mobile phones, the FCC has not established a location requirement for wireless calls placed indoors,” the letter said. The letter, written June 18, urged the Senate Commerce Committee members to address the issue during the FCC confirmation hearing for Tom Wheeler.

The FCC estimated that of the about 240 million 9-1-1 calls placed each year, 70 percent originate from wireless phones. At least 50 percent of all wireless calls originate indoors, according to industry estimates. “Now is the time for the FCC to move forward quickly to establish a reasonable, measurable level of location accuracy for emergency calls made indoors, enabling first responders to locate emergency calls from wireless phones from all locations rapidly and efficiently,” the letter said.

In March, the FCC-chartered Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) approved the final report of the results from its independent field trial of indoor wireless location technologies for enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1). The CSRIC test bed was designed to determine the ability of various technologies to accurately locate mobile E9-1-1 callers in challenging indoor environments. Boeing, NextNav, Polaris Wireless and Qualcomm, all part of CSRIC WG3, had their technologies tested in this first phase.

TruePosition provided initial funding for the coalition, Barnett said. TruePosition was not part of the FCC tests, but the company commissioned TechnoCom to perform indoor tests of its hybrid wireless location technology combining the Uplink Time Difference of Arrival (U-TDOA) and Assisted GPS (A-GPS) technology in Wilmington, Del.

“The coalition is technology neutral,” Barnett said in an interview. “There are several technologies out there that can do this.”

Earlier this month, the FCC released an order allowing Progeny, a NextNav affiliate, to commence commercial operations of its position location service network. However, Progeny must build a nationwide network to offer its service. The service uses Part 15 spectrum, and 63 mission-critical communications groups objected to the service because it could potentially cause interference.

Barnett said time is of the essence. “Because the technology exists now and we have so many wireless 9-1-1 calls, we need to do something right away,” he said. First, we could take the outdoor location accuracy standards and move them indoors. We might need a phase-in to give the carriers time to do that. The path beyond that is trying to tighten the indoor location accuracy standards and that makes the outdoor location accuracy better.”

In February, Barnett joined Venable as partner and co-chair of the telecommunications group in the firm’s government division in the Washington office. After leaving the FCC in April 2012, Barnet served as senior vice president for national security policy at the Potomac Institute for Public Policy, a not-for-profit science and technology policy research institution. He remains a senior fellow of the Potomac Institute.

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