Cellular Phone Communications & 911
There's plenty to be said about cellular telephone service and 911. After all, you dial 911 to get assistance when in need, be it a fire, medical condition or law enforcement issue. But when you are calling from a telephone that could be located on opposite sides of a city in a matter of minutes, things get complicated. Most cellular phone providers now provide location service from the phone in terms of a latitude and longitude coordinate. When a 911 call is placed from one of these phones, its location is displayed at our center with these coordinates as opposed to the normal address. From these coordinates we can provide a nearby address to responders so they can find the caller. Unfortunately, not all providers have developed their systems fully but they are working on it. Too, with the growing number of "pay per call" or pre-paid cell phone accounts out there, the problem of locating these is still an obstacle to overcome.
VoIP (Voice Over IP) Issues
Just what is all the Hub-bub about "VOIP"? What is this "VOIP" anyway?
Well, VoIP isn't really all that new. Being able to voice communicate across the internet has been around for some time. But for it to really be effective, one needs pretty fast Internet speeds. Well, as the phone and cable companies and the upcoming "WiFi" wireless providers grow, so is the availability of these faster or broadband internet connections. And with that comes the Voice Over IP communications software, hardware and even dedicated providers.
"So just what does VoIP stand for?"
Simply, "voice over internet protocol". VoIP is a mergence of hardware and software that allows users to use the internet as the means of placing telephone calls. This software breaks your voice into data packets which are sent using IP or "internet protocol" as opposed to the traditional circuitry of the standard public telephone system.
"So is there an advantage of using VoIP instead of traditional means?"
Sure is... it will mean the end of long distance phone charges among other things. You simply pay your monthly access as you normally do. Placing a VoIP phone call would be like sending an e-mail. Unfortunately, there's a big catch here and one that effects 9-1-1 services. The technology and hype of VoIP can and is spreading faster than service providers capability to integrate the technology with existing communication infrastructures.
"So what does that mean?"
When a 911 call is placed by conventional means (over traditional telephone lines), the call is sent through various telephone company switches that know how and where to route that call to the correct PSAP or "911 Center" that should receive the call. The problem with VoIP is that 1) there are so many more service providers, 2)internet access accounts can be opened closed and switched around so rapidly, that without the cooperation of VoIP service providers, there's no way to know where the 911 call is originating or which 911 center should receive and handle the call.Just as any other new technology, VoIP will eventually come into its own and be able to provide 911 service. Many responsible providers are working on this important aspect of the technology. One day, hopefully sooner than later, 911 service on VoIP will exist as it does with ordinary telephone service, but don't forget, if the power is out in your home or business resulting in your computer being off, unless you have battery backup, you still will be without communications.