The Hatfield 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 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 E9-1-1.
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.
- actively 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.
Public safety 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.”
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.”
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 under way 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 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.