It was encouraging to hear this week that progress toward next-generation (NG-911) systems is being made, with some next-gen public-safety answering points (PSAPs) expected to be operational later this year.

Roger Hixson, technical issues director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), indicated last week at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) winter conference that testing of a full-fledged NG-911 system is expected to be done during the second quarter or early in the third quarter of this year, but he cautioned that not all of the work is done.

It also was interesting to hear that several states are already taking steps to make the transition to NG-911. For instance, as Senior Writer Donny Jackson reported yesterday, representatives from a handful of Virginia counties said they are prepared to have their NG-911 PSAPs operational this summer if interconnection agreements with phone companies can be reached.

These interconnection agreements are going to be one of the trickiest parts, I believe. Are phone companies going to be the ones who slow down the progress toward full-fledged NG-911? I recently paid a visit to Denver 911 and asked about the PSAP's progress toward NG-911. Carl Simpson, director of Denver 911, said his PSAP is IP-ready with a media gateway in place that connects to an analog network, but it's waiting on Qwest to make its transport network NG-911-ready.

"We don't think the network is ready," he said. "Qwest needs to bring the data to us, and there are no real standards to do so."
In today’s 911 world, standards and relationships exist that facilitate the location of a caller. They don’t exist relevant to an all-IP world. That has to change.

Indeed, full 911 functionality in an all-IP world requires originating service providers (OSPs) and their vendors to make changes in the way they generate call data. NENA has been working with these players to develop timely standards to support the development of the necessary interfaces and applications.

But it’s going to take the considerable weight of the FCC to move the standards-development process along at something more than a snail’s pace — likely the commission will have to mandate that the access providers play ball — and soon. Until then, I wonder how successful PSAPs will be in crafting interconnection agreements. Unfortunately, we may end up with a slew of NG-911-ready PSAPs just waiting to interconnect.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.