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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
FCC ADOPTS WIRELESS 911 RULES
Today the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules that will improve the ability of cellular phone users to complete wireless 911 calls. Today's action will improve the security and safety of analog cellular users, especially in rural and suburban areas, by approving three mechanisms any of which will result in more wireless 911 calls being completed than occurs today.
As part of its efforts to promote public safety, the Commission adopted the Enhanced 911 (E911) First Report and Order in 1996, which among other things required that cellular carriers complete all 911 calls, not just those of their subscribers. At the same time, the Commission adopted a Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to develop additional means of improving E911 system performance to serve public safety needs. One issue in the Second NPRM concerned proposals to improve the transmission of 911 calls, particularly from locations where the wireless caller's preferred carrier has a "blank spot" - an area where the system's radio signal is very weak or non-existent. Today's in a Second Report and Order (Order) addresses this particular issue.
Specifics of today's Order:
The Order requires that analog cellular phones, as well as dual mode (digital and analog) phones when operating in the analog mode, include a separate capability for processing 911 calls that permits those calls to be handled, where necessary, by either cellular carrier. The purpose of this separate capability is to improve 911 reliability, increase the probability that 911 calls will be efficiently and successfully transmitted to public safety agencies, and help ensure that wireless service will be maintained for the duration of the 911 calls. This requirement will become effective nine months from today. The Order also sets principles for 911 call completion methods that would satisfy the Commission's rules, and approves three methods that have been proposed in the record -- Automatic A/B Roaming-Intelligent Retry (with some modifications), Adequate/Strongest Signal, and Selective Retry.
Automatic A/B Roaming - Intelligent Retry: With this method, when a consumer dials 911 the handset would seek to complete the call with the consumer's preferred carrier, if possible. If the handset fails to receive a signal, the handset would attempt to complete the call via the non-preferred carrier and would continue to rescan and reattempt the call until it is completed, the user terminates the call, or the handset loses power. The Order approves this mode, subject to two conditions that address the possibility that this mode may cause long set-up times in some cases. These conditions are: (1) that the handset provide effective feedback to inform the user when 911 call processing is underway, such as an audible tone or message and a visual status report, and (2) that, in any case once a 911 is sent, the handset not spend more than 17 seconds seeking to complete the call with the preferred carrier before reattempting the call with the non-preferred carrier. If the handset does not receive confirmation that the call is ringing at the 911 location within that 17 seconds, the handset would switch the call to the other cellular carrier.
Adequate/Strongest Signal: With this method the handset would first scan the control channels of a consumer's preferred carrier to determine whether the carrier offered an adequate control channel, defined as at least -85 dBm. If so, the handset would attempt to complete the call with the preferred carrier. If the preferred carrier's signal strength is below the acceptable threshold gate, the handset would seek to complete the 911 call with whichever cellular carrier provided the strongest control channel signal.
Selective Retry: Selective Retry would employ a separate 911 button on the handset to route 911 calls (an option that could also be adopted with other 911 calling modes). The first time the caller pushes the 911 button, the handset would attempt to complete the 911 call using the customer's preferred carrier. In the event that carrier is unable to complete the call, or the call is completed but interrupted, or the user is dissatisfied with the voice quality or some other aspects of the call, the caller can push the 911 button again and the handset will attempt to complete the 911 call via the other cellular carrier.
These improvements in 911 call completion should significantly increase the reliability of using wireless phones to reach emergency help. Calls that cannot be handled by one of the cellular carriers will, under this Order, be routed to the other carrier for transmission to emergency dispatchers. While this should represent an important improvement in completing 911 calls, especially in areas where cellular coverage is less complete, it is also important to recognize the problems and limits that remain in completing 911 calls. For example, after today there will still remain locations not served by any cellular carrier. Moreover, the Order adopted today only applies to new handsets operating in the analog mode, not to existing handsets, dual mode phones operating in digital mode, or to purely digital handsets.
Even with these qualifications, however, the Commission believes the steps taken in this Order will significantly improve the reliability of the most vital use of wireless phones, reaching needed help in an emergency. The Commission will continue to explore ways to improve wireless 911 service because this is an essential element to improving public safety.
Action by the Commission, May 13, 1999, by Second Report and Order (FCC 99-96). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and Tristani with Commissioner Tristani issuing a separate statement.
News Media contact: Meribeth McCarrick at 202-418-0654, via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or TTY at (202) 418-7233.
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau contact: Dan Grosh (Policy Division) at 418-1310, via e-mail: email@example.com, or TTY at (202) 418-7233.
Report No. WT 99-13