FCC Adopts New Wireless E911 Location Accuracy Requirements

In business, location is everything (read “location, location, location”).  But it is particularly important when it comes to the wireless arena. Fast forward two years: CMRS providers must 1) provide dispatachable coordinates within 50 meters of a caller 2) provide the location within 30 seconds, and 3) meet a 90% confidence level for E911 calls. The road to get there, while it appears aggressive, is broken down into bite-sized segments and timetables for enactment.

The objective of the FCC’s Fourth Report and Order is to provide accurate location information of mobile callers, whether they are calling from indoors or outdoors, from urban or rural areas.  It seeks to strengthen existing E911 rules for both outdoor and indoor calls. Previously, providers needed to satisfy location accuracy standards merely on the performance of outdoor 911 calls. But, with the majority of 911 calls being placed from wireless phones, the changes take significant measures to more accurately identify the location of all wireless callers to aid public safety personnel in providing prompt support.  

The Fourth Report and Order requires nationwide carriers to file compliance plans within 18 months (February 3, 2017), and non-nationwide carriers to file within 24 months (August 3, 2017). Some of the additional requirements include, but are not limited to, implementing horizontal and vertical location information, certifying compliance with each of the benchmark deadlines, retaining 911 call data, and providing confidence and uncertainty (C/U) data upon request of a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). 

The guidelines allow sufficient time for carriers to develop applicable standards, establish testing mechanisms, and deploy new location technology in handsets and networks.  Such requirements are effective only to the extent that the PSAPs request the services and have the ability to recover costs related to them. Nonetheless, carriers are expected to employ all facets of the changes as outlined in the Fourth Report and Order.