TORONTO - Federal regulators have told Canada’s phone companies they have one year to upgrade the country’s 911 service so people calling through wireless devices can be accurately located.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said in a statement that enhanced 911 services will allow emergency responders to incorporate wireless-location technologies such as Global Positioning Systems or triangulation, which are able to locate callers within a radius of 10 to 300 metres.
“I am pleased that the industry has come forward with a technical solution, and that there is now nothing standing in the way of the implementation of enhanced 911 features. The safety and security of Canadians will be greatly improved as a result,” said CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein.
Previously, callers dialing 911 under duress from their cellphones could not easily be found by emergency crews as technology that would identify their specific location was not installed across the country.
Using GPS technology, which relies on pinpoint satellite information, will be a key development to track distressed Canadians if they are in rural areas, experts said.
Canada’s wireless operators said they welcomed the decision and have already begun working on upgrading their cellphone networks to equip the CRTC’s mandate.
“We have purchased a significant technology upgrade to enhance 911 services and are now testing this part network/part handset-based platform that will provide location information directly to Public Safety Answering Points,” said Rogers Communications Inc. spokeswoman Odette Coleman in an e-mail.
BCE Inc.’s Bell Mobility business continued to maintain an enhanced 911 service in Toronto and the Highway 401 corridor after a pilot project was completed in 2005, according to company spokeswoman Julie Smithers.
Coleman said that Rogers’ enhanced 911 service will be fully installed by this June. Bell could not comment on when their upgrade would be completed.
Telus Corp. declined to comment on its enhanced 911 plans, directing all inquiries to the industry’s lobbying group, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
A company that deploys its upgraded 911 service first likely will not have a strategic marketing advantage against their rivals, said Iain Grant, a telecom consultant with Montreal-based Seaboard Group.
“They could get their 15 minutes of fame, but if, say, Rogers beats Bell and Telus by about two months, it’s far too short to develop a full-fledged marketing campaign,” Grant said.
Canadians pay a monthly charge of between 50 cent and $1 on their cellphone bill for operators to support the 911 service. However, the fee is not regulated by the CRTC and companies do not have to disclose how they use the added monthly revenue.
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