ORLANDO — Standards for next-generation 911 (NG-911) systems still need to be finalized, but some next-generation public-safety answering points (PSAPs) are expected to be operational during the latter half of this year, panelists at Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Winter Summit said last week.

“2010 is going to be a critical year in terms of the standards and testing process,” said Roger Hixson, technical issues director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). “We’re a lot closer than we used to be, but there are still things to be developed and finished.”

Following up on NG-911 interoperability testing conducted last November at Texas A&M, Hixson said a similar event focusing on transitioning from legacy 911 systems to NG-911 likely will be conducted in April. Testing of a full-fledged NG-911 system is expected to be done during the latter part of the second quarter or early in the third quarter of this year, he said.

On the standards front, the i3 stage 3 standard — addressing functions and interface architectures for NG-911 — probably will go to public review in three to four weeks, Hixson said.

“In terms of the fundamental standards, we’re either done or on the verge of being done with a lot of those,” Hixson said. “There are still some database process and procedures standards that need to be finished, and there’s still a great deal of education material to be developed and put out.”

With so much of the standards work nearing completion, several states already are taking steps to make the transition to NG-911. Representatives of 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, while a Connecticut representative said officials in his state have vowed to have NG-911 PSAPs operation by the middle of next year.

Hixson said such early movers need to craft the language in their bidding documents carefully to ensure that the systems meet all NG-911 standards, not just a few of them.

“Running E-911 over an IP transport network … is not NG-911,” he said. “You may be on way to NG-911, but you’re not there yet.”

Some attendees questioned whether any bidding requests can be crafted when the NG-911 standards have not been completed yet. Hixson said he believes vendors and service providers that have participated and monitored the standards processes closely can make legitimate bids based on existing information.

“They have a pretty good perspective on where things are going and how they’re going to look, even though formal standards aren’t actually published yet,” Hixson said. “I’m guessing that they have concluded what they believe it’s going to look like and are bidding on that basis, knowing that they may need to tweak some things over the course of time.”