Thursday, July 16, 2020

FCC expands rules for Z-axis location data in emergency calls

The FCC is expanding its efforts to help first responders quickly locate people who call 911 from wireless phones in multi-story buildings.

The Commission’s Enhanced 911 rules require wireless providers to transmit to 911 call centers information on the location of wireless 911 calls.  And they obligate wireless providers to meet an increasingly stringent series of location accuracy benchmarks in accordance with a timetable, including providing the caller’s dispatchable location (such as the street address and apartment number) or coordinate-based vertical (“z-axis”) location. 

In November 2019, the Commission established the z-axis location accuracy metric as plus or minus three meters relative to the handset for 80 percent of indoor wireless 911 calls.  Nationwide wireless providers must meet April 2021 and April 2023 deadlines for deploying z-axis technology, which must comply with the metric for accuracy, in the top 25 and 50 markets, respectively. 

In this action, the FCC affirmed the 2021 and 2023 z-axis requirements, rejecting a proposal to weaken them.  The Commission added a new requirement that nationwide wireless providers deploy z-axis technology nationwide by April 2025, while affording non-nationwide wireless providers an additional year (i.e., until April 2026) to do so within their service areas.  To give wireless providers additional flexibility in meeting these requirements while still advancing critical public safety objectives, the Commission allowed providers to deploy technologies that focus on multi-story buildings, where vertical location information is most vital to first responders.  The Commission also required wireless providers, beginning in January 2022, to provide dispatchable location with wireless 911 calls when it is technically feasible and cost-effective to do so, which will promote consistency in the Commission’s 911 rules across technology platforms.