This year, the National Emergency Number Association is expected to make significant progress toward standards for next-generation 911, an all-IP 911 system capable of accommodating rapidly evolving calling methods. But the full implementation of NG-911 is complex and may not happen until 2011 or after, noted Roger Hixson, NENA's director of technical issues, during a Webinar last month sponsored by the trade association USTelecom that examined the potential effect NG-911 would have on originating service providers, or OSPs.

While 2010 is the estimate for fully standards-based NG-911 availability, true IP-to-IP connectivity won't be ready then. Rather, Hixson envisions the various call methods — such as wireless, landline and voice-over-IP (VoIP) — to continue transporting the same way via the standard analog or SS7 network and into an IP gateway.

“We have to have a replication of what E911 does today in order not to have a dip or risk of dropping 911 calls,” Hixson told an audience of more than 500. “The gateways involved may have to drive and populate data, and that will probably limit the ability to consolidate OSP transport.”

These gateways, however, limit one of the key goals of NG-911, which is to enable all IP-based service types to quickly interface with the NG-911 system, as long as they meet some standard interface requirements. “Consolidating transport without losing functionality is the goal,” Hixson said.

NENA is planning to conduct a full beta test and a first application test, likely in 2010, as NENA and other groups hammer out standards. Part of the transition to NG-911 also will include a transitioning committee that focuses on service providers and breaks them into different categories so that each type of service provider has specific details about what they need to consider when the transition to NG-911 happens.