The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the agency that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest, very similar to the role of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US. Their Emergency Services Working Group (ESWG). This group, which is composed of Telecommunication Service Providers, Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs and ECCs), as well as 9-1-1 Industry specialists, works to address issues relating to 9-1-1 services, as well as the technical and operational implementation of these services, including NG911.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they had embarked on an initiative of NG911 trials in the ECCs. In addition, they had socialized some fairly aggressive dates for NG911 migration and the ultimate decommissioning of the legacy E911 network infrastructure. As with most other activities, these actions were stagnant for a year and a half but have recently gotten back on track with a new timeline.
The newly released timeline has the ECCs able to start their NG911 deployments in just nine short months on March 1, 2022. Also, on this date, the NG911 Service Providers in Canada need to have their networks ready to accept and deliver calls, and the network will utilize a NENA i3 infrastructure and i3 protocols to provide service under this public safety standard.
In a bold statement, they have once again announced the date shortly where Canada will be NG911, rendering the E911 a wasteland of fallow copper circuits. That date is now March 4, 2025, just 1,347 days after this blog is published. Tick . . . Tock . . . Tick . . . Tock . . .
WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE MEAN?
While any change can be disruptive, this particular change in technology is well worth the effort. It brings forth additional capabilities, services, and efficiencies that streamline the delivery of emergency services to the public. In the current legacy E911 system, calls route using a location database designed to perform these primary functions:
- Determination of the 911 caller’s location and associating that location to a valid street address listed in the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG)
- Based on the MSAG entry, assigning an Emergency Service Number (ESN) used to route the emergency call to the proper agency for handling, and
- Automatically deliver the associated address location information using the caller ID Automatic Number Identification (ANI) to retrieve the Automatic Location Information (ALI) from the State jurisdictional databases.
Much to the surprise of many seasoned professionals, the information gets communicated through old analog modems on 9600bps Frame Relay circuits that have remained mostly unchanged for decades. Although functional, they are far from efficient by today’s standards and capabilities. The systems are also text-based, with no ability to transport any IP-based multimedia information.
NG911, on the other hand, utilizes GIS (Geographic Information System).
GIS is a framework providing the ability to utilize spatial and geographic data. GIS user applications allow interactive queries that can store spatial and non-spatial data and share the results of these queries, presenting them as maps. For Public Safety, this becomes a significant advantage when assigning resources to incidents. With an NG911 call, the legacy routing mechanisms are retired, and new Emergency Call Routing Functions (ECRF) and Location Validation Functions (LVF) are deployed in their place. The Emergency Call Routing Function (ECRF) uses location information to route 911 calls to the appropriate PSAP accurately. This new geospatial call routing model provides better accuracy, reducing the number of 911 call transfers due to misrouted calls. This new routing increases the operational efficiency while helping to reduce the response times of 1st responders, with a net result of saving more lives and property.
A PENNY SAVED IS MORE THAN A PENNY EARNED
A common outcry heard amongst NG911 skeptics is that this new infrastructure will cost far too much money, in the existing network is in great need of repair. The aging legacy E911 network has indeed been ignored from a technology refresh perspective for years. However, it is also very likely that diverting money from a new system to maintain the existing infrastructure may not be the best investment. Many operational efficiencies delivered by NG911, including resiliency, redundancy, and reliability, show that Over-the-Top NG911 service networks have emerged to provide advanced information and services in a network parallel to the legacy infrastructure.
In doing this, a shortcut detour provides connectivity today, and as it turns out, a very functional NG911 pathway is established, providing valuable information to the ECC. The unique environment this creates is one where the origination network can provide emergency call session media in an NG911 compliant connection through several non-traditional OTT providers. In addition, this network clears the way for the ECC to upgrade its facilities to NG911. The same is true for enterprises and origination networks. Finally, this creates a unique opportunity for both ends of the connection to move to current technology without waiting for carrier connectivity.
When the legacy networks finally retire and are upgraded to modern IP networks, the connections get moved from the OTT provider to the NG911 direct provider. No change on the origination network or termination network is required other than testing facilities after the change. A hard-core NENA i3 heavy hitter architect will likely take exception with my concept, but there’s no denying that, at a high level, there is merit to my thinking. While my idea might not be perfect as presented, you have to admit that it is thought-provoking and hopefully inspirational to someone who knows a little more than me.
STAY WELL AND BE SAFE . . .