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Next Generation 911 Services: Integrating Wireless and Digital Communications

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February 28, 2011

Next Generation 911 Services: Integrating Wireless and Digital Communications

By Rajani Baburajan, TMCnet Contributor

The success of the Next Generation 911 service (NG 911) projects will depend on the effective integration of wireless and digital communications into a NG911 emergency communication system, according to Government Computer News (GCN).

Integration is important to offer text and video services to NG911 users. Currently, the 911 system is based on wireline platform and does not allow text or other data services.

In order to ensure that the planned integration is effective, the Federal Communications Commission has recently, at the closing of 2010 and beginning of 2011, sought ideas from the industry. The FCC (News - Alert) is primarily investigating how to integrate cellular and digital communications into a Next Generation 911 services emergency communications system that would be able to handle video and data, as well as voice.

According to the FCC National Broadband Plan officials, the government is encouraging innovation in the development and deployment of NG 911 networks and emergency alert systems. The commission is currently compiling information from the public on implementing NG 911 services and moving public safety communications beyond traditional voice-centric technologies.

The commission has acknowledged that the telecom industry’s technological innovation including the advanced IP-based devices and applications have enhanced the ability of the consumer to communicate, sending and receiving information.

At the same time, the legacy circuit-switched 911 services system is unable to accommodate the capabilities embedded in many of these advanced technologies, such as the ability to transmit and receive photos, text messages and video, according to FCC.

Texting and sharing photographs and video could be the best way to alert first responders in case of emergency. For instance, in New Zealand, which was devastated by the recent earthquake, one woman sent more than 10 text messages to her family members while she was lying in the rubble. A caller might also prefer texting in situations when there’s a threat of being identified while speaking.

According to Julius Genachowski (News - Alert), chairman of the FCC, shootings at the Virginia Tech Campus is an example of the need for NG911 services. Some students and witnesses tried to text 9-1-1 during that emergency, but those messages never went through; they were never received by local 9-1-1 dispatchers.

The NG911 is gaining momentum. TeleCommunicaiton Systems, a provider of secure-mobile communication technology, announced plans to offer support for the recent introduction of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Preservation Act of 2010.

Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard

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