Testing cell phone calls is a critical component of the US 911 system. Locating the caller so emergency services can be sent out quickly is vital. Its a complex system, but network carriers are increasingly under pressure from the Federal government to ensure location accuracy. Considerable amounts of money are put into the 911 system, indeed 10c is taken from every cell phone bill every month to support this system. That amounts to billions of dollars a year.

At present, the US have a mostly self regulatory system in place. Carriers such as AT&T and Sprint report on the accuracy of their own networks. The Federal government currently have a combination of mandates and agreements in place on required accuracy. New more stringent mandates are being rolled out over the next few years:

Network-Based Technologies:

Location information generated by triangulating the caller’s wireless signal in relation to nearby cell sites

§ 100 meters for 67% of calls; (In 100% of counties or PSAP service areas by 2015.)
§ 300 meters for 90% of calls; (In 85% of counties or PSAP service areas by 2018.)

Handset-Based Technologies:

Location information generated by GPS or similar technology installed on the handset

§ 50 meters for 67% of calls by 2018
§ 150 meters for 90% of calls by 2018

These are defined and stringent. The FCC will be fining those carriers whose networks fall below these required minimums. This will make wireless testing ever more important. It will also put pressure on US counties and cities to independently test 911 wireless data accuracy. This is particularly relevant as new reports suggest, in some parts of the US, there are severe problems with 911 call location accuracy.

New Tools to Help with 911 Wireless Testing

We’ve been working with Harris County in Texas, to provide a map based mobile app to help with 911 wireless testing and reporting. Once a test 911 call has been made, details of the call are recorded on an iPad using GPS and interactive map. Once finished, this data is automatically uploaded to a central location. A demo is show below:

Replacing pen and paper, this approach helps automate wireless testing recording and reporting. As there is greater pressure to conduct 911 wireless testing with the roll out of new US mandates, using mobile technology in this way will be huge benefit.

Contact us for more information

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