Next Generation 911 (NG911) has been a recurring topic in telecommunications in the recent years. With the changes happening with the new FCC (see TMI Blog Posting 2/1/17 New FCC; New Changes), it is becoming increasingly important to understand just what is NG911. According to the new FCC chairman’s official webpage, Public Safety is a top priority for Chairman Ajit Pai, who has pushed for the advancement of NG911 and been active towards ensuring that consumers can reach emergency services whenever they dial 911.
What is NG911?
Simply stated, NG911 improves 911 call-handling for both the public and emergency responder through Internet Protocol (IP) based systems.
What benefits can be derived from an NG911 network?
The additional network resilience can further reduce the risk of 911 calls failing to reach the emergency responder. This network can deliver more precise information about the location of the calling party, which can be updated in real-time. Take, for example, a case where a student living on a campus dorm dials 911. Currently, in most locations, the emergency responders would only have access to the physical address from which the call originated. However, in a location where NG911 has been implemented, the responders would be able to determine not only the building, but also the specific dorm room of the student in need.
Additionally, responders can now be contacted from and reply to any device in text and video format, in addition to voice. This would allow witnesses to discreetly and securely contact the authorities in an active shooter situation, for example. Likewise, text and video can more easily accommodate people with special needs.
What’s involved in an NG911 migration?
That depends upon whose perspective the NG911 migration is viewed.
Those responsible for designating the 911 service provider must identify the vendor options available, evaluate each based on a number of criteria, and select the most appropriate choice. Benchmarks such as previous success as a 911 service provider, technological capability (e.g. features/functionality offered now/later), overall network redundancy, and cost should drive this decision.
Cost involves a thorough understanding of what currently exists, which is not as easy as it sounds. Legacy providers have served in this capacity for decades and records are often difficult to locate, posing the most challenge. These records become just as crucial post-NG911 migration, as legacy service elements should be disconnected to eliminate cost. Funding the NG911 migration effort needs equal consideration.
Once designated, the 911 service provider must develop a deployment plan with an emphasis on minimizing risk and meeting customer expectations. These must be clearly defined, prior to project-implementation, ensuring that everything is identified and captured. If a CPE deployment is part of the plan, the vendor should be involved in the initial joint meeting. Database integrity and alternate route plans are equally as important as ensuring that all 911 calls are redirected to the NG911 network. Redirecting 911 calls requires LECs with direct connects to the legacy 911 service provider to timely cooperate by establishing these same connections and translation changes to the new 911 service provider.
If a PSAP CPE upgrade is introduced, this creates another layer of complexity. Close coordination must exist between the NG911 service provider and the CPE vendor to drive toward the customer’s desired completion date. These vendors must work together so migrations are flawlessly implemented, with safeguards available if unforeseen circumstances surface. Planning meetings and outlining requirements must occur and progress should be tracked. Full disclosure of issues, when they arise, must be shared with the objective to avoid negatively affecting the customer or deployment schedule. A test plan must be formulated and conducted jointly in advance of each scheduled deployment, allowing time to correct errors.
What does the future hold for NG911?
Since 911 funds are collected within the state; the states would have to push 911service providers to migrate to an NG911 system. With the attention given to Next Generation 911, by FCC Chairman Pai, TMI will be monitoring the FCC to see what role they’ll play in encouraging the states to migrate.