Canada Rolls Out Nationwide Phase II E9-1-1
February 24, 2010
Meeting a one-year deadline, Canada’s 9-1-1 services community underwent an upgrade to provide the location of a cell phone 9-1-1 call to all Canadian public-safety answering points (PSAPs). The rollout required wireless service providers (WSP), wireline carriers and PSAPs to collaborate.
As of Feb. 1, 121 out of the 130 PSAPs across Canada that can support wireless E9-1-1 services were fully functioning. Of the nine remaining, five will be ready by the end of this week and the last four will be ready by the end of April.
On Feb. 2, 2009, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued Telecom Decision 2009-40, requiring implementation of Phase II E9-1-1 services with a deadline of Feb. 1.
Canada’s Phase I and II are similar to the United States’ FCC wireless E9-1-1 phases, but not identical, said Keith McIntosh, director of regulatory affairs, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). Phase I was implemented in 2005 and required the call-back number to be determined from cell phone users calling 9-1-1. Phase II called for enhanced location information.
Before this month’s deadline, most Canadian call centers could only narrow the location of a cell phone caller to a sector within the area served by the cell phone tower nearest the caller, which could represent a radius of up to 20 kilometers in rural areas. Now PSAPs are able to pinpoint the caller to a typical range of accuracy between 10 and 300 meters, said Curtis Brochu, APCO Canada president. This range can increase in more rural areas.
CRTC created the Emergency Services Working Group (ESWG) about 10 years ago. ESWG is responsible for researching, developing and working on emergency services in Canada. The group is comprised of most E9-1-1 shareholders, including wireline carriers, WSPs, PSAP representatives, CRTC members and vendors.
In March 2008, CRTC called on ESWG to create a report about implementing wireless location information. “We try to keep a pulse on what’s going on around the country, and in 2008 we thought the time was right,” said John Traversy, executive director, telecommunications, CRTC. The report asked for the feasibility of a rollout and technology requirements.
“Using information from the report, we thought 12 months was an appropriate amount of time. We knew it was a difficult objective but thought it was still realistic,” Traversy said.
In June 2009, ESWG submitted another report that outlined the criteria, priority and schedule for the rollout. ESWG recommended a geographical rollout scheduled on a province-by-province basis, with a focus on major centers first, to use the resources of stakeholders in the most efficient and timely manner, the report stated. Implementation in different areas could be carried out simultaneously. The report also included the rollout schedule for five WSPs — Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility, MTS Wireless and SaskTel Mobility. All rollouts were scheduled to be completed by the Feb. 1 deadline.
CRTC has regulatory power over only WSPs, which were told that the new rollout was the cost of doing business in Canada and were required to comply. Wireline providers and PSAPs were held accountable by market implications, in addition to having to explain to their constituents why they didn’t have the top-notch emergency services available in other parts of the country, Traversy said. “We usually use the shaming power,” he said.
Phase II could only occur in PSAPs that had completed Phase I, and not all areas in Canada offer emergency 9-1-1 service. With the rollout, more than 95 percent of Canadian PSAPs will have location technology.
Emergency call centers are managed and funded by municipal and/or provincial authorities. E9-1-1 service is only available wherever municipal and/or provincial authorities have set it up. So while the CRTC issue required WSPs to be compliant, the commission left questions of complying and funding for PSAPs to local authorities. Wireline carriers used a tariff to raise funds.
When a call is placed to E9-1-1 from a wireline phone, a database is triggered and the location is found. After completing Phase I, cell phone records were found in a similar way. To find the location of a handset, a trigger request was required to occur between the provider and the location center.
A main database was developed to which query requests could be sent to receive the cell phone’s location. With a standardized database, carriers could build to one set of parameters. This allowed for the rollout to be done all at once, McIntosh said.
The wireline players, which equip the landline that runs from the cell tower to the PSAPs, had to upgrade their systems to handle the new technology. This took about six months. Then the WSPs and the PSAPs had to upgrade technology to be equipped to handle the new information.
Telus Mobility operates as both a WSP nationally and a wireline provider in several western provinces. The company spent $17 million to upgrade all the 9-1-1 infrastructure required for the rollout. The wireline aspect had be to done within the first six months so all wireless carriers that used the landline could begin the upgrade. Acting as a WSP, the company had three networks that also needed to be upgraded, said Parm Sandhu, director for network services, Telus.
Once everything was upgraded, the testing began. Each party involved was responsible for its own system, and testing ensured the systems worked end to end. Testing included more than 6,000 cell sectors. PSAPs officials also had to train dispatchers and test new equipment, because many PSAPs were required to upgrade their CAD systems during the process.
“It was a very large testing process, and the logistics were all worked out by the working group,” Brochu said. “They did very well given that it was all done in a year.”
The cell phone location is determined through a combination of GPS and triangular technology. The CRTC didn’t pick the type of technology that was required; the choice was left to the WSPs. Most often the technology is determined by the phone’s capabilities.
If the cell phone contains GPS, that technology is usually used. With GPS, when the call is placed, a signal is sent to a satellite, which then finds the location.
If a phone isn’t GPS capable, triangular technology is used. This technology determines the location by measuring the phone’s signal distance from the nearest tower. Triangular technology provides a similar degree of accuracy as GPS, according to a statement on the CRTC Web site.
“Each [technology] choice has its strengths and weaknesses,” McIntosh said. “They were just required to use whatever technology to receive the best location possible.”
The success of the rollout was attributed to the collaboration of all those involved. “It’s a success story that required a lot of collaboration,” Traversy said. Most members of ESWG have been working together for a long time, helping the cooperation process. “Many of the members have formed strong relationships,” he said.
“It was a very challenging project,” said Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall. “Eight to 10 years ago it was almost unheard of for someone to call 9-1-1 with a cell phone. Today, more than half of all 9-1-1 calls are placed on a cell phone. This rollout is an important adaptation to the changing technologies.”
ESWG recently submitted CRTC a report addressing text messaging and SMS, which will most likely be the next step for Canada’s E9-1-1 services.