FCC’s ‘Hatfield Report’ sets possible course for completing wireless E9-1-1 deployment
- Hatfield’s recommendations
- Joint public safety organization reaction
- Vendor response
- Link to full report
The FCC wants to accelerate deployment of wireless E9-1-1 emergency telephone number service that would indicate callers’ locations to call takers at public safety answering points.
In an effort to herd all wireless carriers, equipment manufacturers and PSAP operators into the E9-1-1 corral with less delay than has been evident to date, the FCC commissioned one of its retired bureau chiefs, Dale N. Hatfield, to conduct an inquiry into E9-1-1 technical and operational deployment problems.
Hatfield delivered his “Report on Technical and Operational Issues Impacting the Provision of Wireless Enhanced 911 Services” to the commission on Oct. 15. The next day, the FCC issued a Public Notice that asked for comments about Hatfield’s report to be filed by Nov. 15, with reply comments due on Dec. 3.
In a series of orders beginning in 1996, the FCC required wireless carriers to provide both basic and enhanced emergency 9-1-1 services. The FCC said that despite substantial progress in the development of technologies to support E9-1-1 location capability, much remains to be done to achieve the agency’s goal to have wireless E911 location capabilities deployed throughout the country.
In the fall of 2001, the FCC announced that Hatfield, a former chief of its Office of Engineering and Technology and a former deputy administrator at NTIA, would conduct an inquiry.
On March 5, the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released a Public Notice giving details about the inquiry, including its desire for an expert, informed and unbiased assessment of the problems.
The bureau wanted information to be gathered and evaluated from many sources, including technology vendors, network equipment and handset manufacturers, carriers, the public safety community, and other sources concerning technology standards issues, development of hardware and software, and supply conditions.
The inquiry was also intended to address the provisioning by local exchange carriers (LECs) of the facilities and equipment necessary to receive and utilize E9-1-1 data elements. The bureau indicated that the focus of the inquiry was on the future of the wireless E9-1-1 deployment, including obstacles to deployment and steps that might be taken to overcome or minimize them.
In its Oct. 16 notice, the FCC said that Hatfield’s report notes initially the importance of wireless E9-1-1 for emergency services, the progress that has been made in wireless E9-1-1 implementation during the past several years—especially in the development and selection of technologies for obtaining location information—and the critical role LECs play in implementation of wireless E911.
“Hatfield makes several findings about current E9-1-1 implementation efforts and offers a number of recommendations to address some of the principal issues and concerns raised during the course of the inquiry,” the notice reads.
Hatfield recommended that a “National 911 Program Office” be established within the proposed Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with local and state public safety first responders and other stakeholders.
Citing the importance of E9-1-1 to the safety of life and property and to homeland security, Hatfield recommended that the FCC maintain or even increase its oversight of the rollout of wireless E9-1-1 services during the next several years.
Hatfield recommended that the FCC:
establish an advisory committee to address the technical framework for the further development and evolution of E9-1-1 systems and services including technical standards.
continue to urge the creation of organizations at the state, regional, and local levels of government to coordinate the rollout of wireless E9-1-1 services.
encourage the creation of a national level clearinghouse to collect, store, and disseminate status information on the rollout of wireless E9-1-1.
coordinate with and support the U.S. Department of Transportation’s wireless E9-1-1 initiative and other efforts to educate state and local governments and PSAPs on the benefits and importance of wireless E9-1-1 services.
continue to support the efforts of the Emergency Services Interconnection Forum (ESIF) concerning PSAP readiness.
work closely with individual and state regulatory commissions and their association, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), in resolving issues relating to LEC cost recovery and pricing.
urge stakeholders to develop industry-wide procedures for testing and certification of wireless E9-1-1 to ensure that they meet the accuracy requirements specified in the commission’s rules.
Finally, Hatfield made recommendations about several other issues, including the need for end-to-end testing of wireless E9-1-1 systems, conveying confidence and uncertainty information associated with position determination and routing choices, accommodating new requirements and requirement “creep,” the impact of future technological developments, consumer expectations, the implications of commercial location-based services, and the need for an adaptable regulatory approach.
Public safety community reaction — Three membership organizations that reflect the public safety community’s interest in wireless E9-1-1 location capability, the National Emergency Number Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International and the National Association of State 911 Directors, issued a joint statement that applauded Hatfield’s report, calling it “thorough and fair.”
“Mr. Hatfield is to be commended and thanked for his honest and thoughtful analysis of 9-1-1, and wireless E9-1-1 in our nation,” said John Melcher, NENA’s president, in a prepared statement.
The joint public safety statement supports what it said was a long-standing position within the public safety communications community that the automatic provision of location information is “critical” for both wireless and wireline calls to 9-1-1.
The public safety organizations said that Hatfield’s observations indicated that “technological and operational attention has shifted from discovering and developing wireless E9-1-1 location capabilities to actual deployment.”
The joint statement called attention to Hatfield’s observation that “PSAPs are on the frontlines in the nation’s defense against the threat of terrorism as well as in responding to more conventional emergencies.”
“NENA will continue to examine the Hatfield report, the challenges set forth, and the opportunities for success,” Melcher said. “We will brief the FCC later this month on our Strategic Wireless Action Team (SWAT) implementation initiative.”
Vendor reaction — One manufacturer, Cambridge Positioning Systems, Cambridge, United Kingdom, weighed in with an immediate reaction to the Hatfield Report.
CPS asserted that the “enhanced observed time difference” industry, in which it plays a part, is “already meeting” the Hatfield Report recommendations on collaboration and standards.
“E-OTD technology is already meeting the FCC’s accuracy requirements for 2002, with a filing by operator T-Mobile recently confirming compliant performance,” a statement from CPS reads.
The Hatfield Report “is the most thorough and complete assessment of where the E-911 industry is at the moment. We fully support the recommendations and believe that those of us working within the E-OTD industry have already taken many of the recommended steps,” the statement quotes CPS Chief Executive Chris Wade as saying.
“The formation of an industry-wide E-OTD working group, backed by all the major equipment and handset vendors, is already addressing issues surrounding systems engineering and best deployment practice. Further collaborative work is also underway on testing and certification methods,” Wade said.
Wade said that CPS supports what it said was Hatfield’s assertion that standardization is a key aspect for the success of location technologies. He said that E-OTD, unlike many alternatives, is a “standardized and accepted location technology” that enjoys the full support of the telecommunications equipment and handset suppliers.
The CPS official said that the Hatfield report also notes that the future development of a particular location technology would depend on the ability of that technology to deliver commercial services.
“E-OTD again, unlike other alternatives, provides the building blocks for advanced commercial services fully integrated into the GSM system,” Wade said.
“The kind of industry-wide collaboration called for in the report is already underway in the E-OTD industry and yielding positive results. Having met the FCC October 2002 accuracy requirements, we are now seeing considerable progress towards the 2003 levels,” he said.
The CPS statement describes the Joint E-OTD Industry Working Group as bringing together senior management and technical expertise from global vendors.
“Up to 1,000 engineering and technical staff from these companies are currently working on E-OTD,” the statement reads. “A second group, involving major handset manufacturers has also been formed in order to further progress E-OTD handset implementation.”
CPS described the groups’ objective as providing an end-to-end approach to the delivery of the technology involving infrastructure, terminals and network design.
“This will involve the sharing of expertise and information drawn from system deployments in six U.S. locations. Primarily, the industry-wide group will focus on ensuring the technology meets the industry requirements,” CPS said.
To see the entire Hatfield Report, click here.