AT&T blasts TruePosition's 911 testing as 'ill-considered' and 'half-baked'

An ongoing battle among Tier 1 wireless carriers and location technology vendors over ways to more accurately locate 911 callers has spilled into the public arena, with AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) taking to its public policy blog to lambast a technology test from location vendor TruePosition as inaccurate and misleading.

"To serve the public best, the wireless industry should be focused on a path to delivering specific and unique dispatchable civic addresses. TruePosition's proposed approach just doesn't get us there," summed AT&T's Joan Marsh on the carrier's policy blog. "Instead of chasing ill-considered and half-baked approaches proposed by a single technology provider, all stakeholders would be better served by working together to chart the path toward delivery of a solution that will fully address public safety's needs--one built on broad-based commercial technologies that provide a specific dispatchable address."

Marsh's post was a response to a report TruePosition issued earlier this month that the company said showed its technology could more accurately locate mobile 911 callers inside large buildings. TruePosition's testing, conducted by location engineering firm TechnoCom, found that TruePosition's commercially-available Uplink Time Difference of Arrival (UTDOA) technology standalone, and a hybrid solution consisting of Assisted Global Positioning System (A-GPS) and UTDOA technologies, was able to meet the FCC's proposed location performance threshold for indoor wireless E911 at the 67th percentile. "The demonstrated performance even comes very close to meeting the 50 meter threshold at 80%, which is intended for 5 years from adoption of the proposed rules," according to TechnoCom's findings.

TruePosition is hoping the FCC uses its technology as the basis for a ruling that would require wireless carriers to more accurately discover the location of indoor 911 callers and report that information to police and other public safety workers. The FCC is investigating such technology in an effort to aid emergency responders who often cannot find 911 callers who are using cell phones.

In her post today, AT&T's Marsh took fiery umbrage at TruePosition's report: She said the tests were conducted outside of an established testing process, that they did not rely on commercially available products and "the technologies used by TruePosition are not fully supported in any wireless network today." She also claimed that TruePosition's technology simply cannot provide "a vertical estimate of location."

"Indeed, TruePosition simply ignored that component of the FCC's proposed rules as someone else's problem to fix, while enthusiastically encouraging the FCC to adopt unachievable regulations for carriers to meet," Marsh wrote.

In a lengthy response to AT&T's post, TruePosition's CTO Rob Anderson noted that TechnoCom's testing is accurate. As for the technologies used, Anderson said that "The reason these technologies are not in broad use today is because most carriers have chosen to shift to cheaper AGPS technologies, which are not accurate indoors." Anderson acknowledged that the testing didn't address a vertical estimate of location, but said "as the testing did not include a z-axis component, this claim further validates the TechnoCom results that current technologies can meet the x-y requirements, something the carriers had strenuously denied until this point." Finally, Anderson said that TruePosition's technology would not cause interference in a wireless network.

For more:
- see this post from AT&T
- see this initial release from TruePosition
- see this full response to AT&T from TruePosition

Related Articles:
Indoor-location technology is not ready for E911 use, argues TIA
Text-to-911 set to go live by May 15
Some 911 operators aren't getting cell phone location data - who is to blame?
Qualcomm says 3GPP is studying beacon technology for indoor positioning

Updated June 27 to include reaction from TruePosition