Will the New Year bring us new developments in one of the most controversially underdeveloped areas of telephony over the Internet—E-911? If we are all expecting Internet telephony to be widely adopted nationwide, Enhanced 911, or “ E911,” (define - news - alert) is one of the areas we need to thoroughly work on. Internet telephony enablers are now beginning to step up to the plate by facing consumers’ requests with a serious plan. Among those companies responding is Level 3 Communications Inc. The company made a very important announcement today about its E-911-enabled Voice over IP ( VoIP ) (define - news - alert - tutorial) services to areas encompassing approximately 60 million households nationwide.
Over the course of 2004, Level 3 has been deploying its E-911 VoIP solution in more than 300 markets nationwide and plans to expand its E-911 coverage further throughout 2005. The E-911 solution, which is one of the first components of the company's broad suite of VoIP services, enables ISPs, cable companies, local phone companies, long-distance providers and others to build E-911 functionality into the services they offer to enterprises and consumers.
"Adoption of VoIP in both business and residential markets is growing at exponential rates," said Sureel Choksi, executive vice president of services for Level 3. "It is increasingly important that VoIP service providers be able to deliver E-911 in order to meet the demands of the market, as well as fulfill important public-safety needs. Level 3 made a significant investment in building its E-911 network platform for VoIP in 2004, and we believe that this capability is a key reason why leading communications companies are choosing Level 3 as their preferred provider of wholesale VoIP services."
E-911 delivers address-specific information to public safety agencies whenever someone makes a 9-1-1 emergency line phone call, enabling first responders to be dispatched to the scene of an emergency even if the caller is unable to speak or if the call is suddenly disconnected. It is widely known that delivering E-911 presents very serious challenges with VoIP technologies, because determining the location of the caller is difficult in an IP-based network transaction. As a commonly used solution by VoIP-enablers, "10-digit routing," has been set up to aid delivery of basic 9-1-1 capability to users. This method has not been entirely effective, since the only information displayed on contingency responders’ equipment when a user places a call is a phone number and not the location of the person requiring assistance.
Level 3 has taken a different approach to integrate an effective E-911 functionality compatible with the requirements of emergency personnel’s equipment. The company will now provide its existing nationwide network with interconnectivity with 911 Tandems and establish dedicated connections from its network to PSTN switches that serve Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in over 1,500 rate centers around the country.
"In our view, mainstream consumers will not fully embrace Voice over IP as a replacement for the traditional land line unless they are confident that it will deliver the public-safety features they are accustomed to," said Donna Lachance, senior vice president of Consumer Voice Services for Level 3. "We believe the E-911 capability we are embedding into the Level 3 network represents enormous progress in addressing this issue, and that it will serve as a real differentiator for Level 3 in the marketplace. We are committed to maintaining a leadership position in this area, and we look forward to expanding our E-911 footprint even further in the coming quarters."
Level 3 Communications
|Johanne Torres is contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was
assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She
can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.