Tier 1 carriers partner with public safety groups to boost 911 location accuracy

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) agreed to team with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials  and the National Emergency Number Association to improve the indoor location accuracy of 911 calls over the next six years. The agreement, which was announced by the CTIA, comes after the FCC challenged the industry to help first responders locate emergencies indoors, and improve 911 indoor location accuracy to within 50 meters horizontally and 3 meters vertically. The FCC estimated that the changes could save more than 10,000 lives every year, according to Reuters.

As 911 calls from cell phones increasingly move indoors, the situation has posed new challenges for emergency responders trying to locate 911 callers in large buildings.

The proposed solution between the carriers and APCO and NENA will use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies to supplement location data obtained directly from phones' GPS chips. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are already deployed in some in-building locations, and those in the industry believe the use of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi inside buildings will expand significantly in the next few years. 

The companies and groups agreed on timelines to verify technologies and vendor performance for indoor and outdoor technologies; accelerate the delivery of location information dispatchers can use via indoor technologies; and improve existing location technologies for better outdoor and indoor location fixes.

As part of the agreement, the carriers said they will obtain a location fix using heightened location accuracy technologies for 40 percent of all wireless 911 calls within in two years; 50 percent within three years; 75 percent within five years and 80 percent within six years. However, it's unclear whether the new agreements contain any specific accuracy goals in terms of locating callers. Release