Color TV on a Black and White Set

Delivering NG911 through Old Fashioned Innovation

With 911 being part of my work experience spanning over four decades and the sole focus for over the last half of that time, a day rarely goes by without someone asking me for my opinion on some aspect of 911, E911, or the new next-generation NG911 architecture now being deployed in North America. Mass migration of enterprise telephony moving towards UC platforms includes IP telephony and the latest iteration of IP communications, such as the IP telephony enabled desktop and client application.

The fastest-growing leader in the space is the Microsoft Teams environment. It is no surprise that Microsoft Teams is one of the most common infrastructures at the core of many queries I get. This past weekend, I received a message from a long-time call league now in charge of a Teams deployment at their location We’ll call him “Keith” – he’ll know exactly who he is. 😉

While reading many of my past posts, I was pretty impressed with the level of detail in his question:

“Fletch – Hope all is well. How does NG911/E911 come into play when planning to deploy a new Microsoft Teams phone system? Is it on the PSAPs to have the capabilities?”

Here is what makes me proud of Keith for asking this question:

  • He stopped to ask BEFORE he deployed a critical life safety solution
  • He wondered about NG 911 and E911 (double bonus points!)
  • He understood that HE and HIS network likely have a role in all of this
  • He also understands that the PSAP/ECC also has a significant role in this

Based on this question, he has demonstrated his understanding of the legacy’s high-level core functional element components and the next-generation emergency services networks. All he needs is some clarification on how they all interwork and what roles and responsibilities each has. Good job, buddy; you have listened well over the years.

When I deliver training courses to sales and technical teams on 911 networks in general, the first point that I like to stress is that 911 is an end-to-end connection. However, it is essential to realize that while one element can have 911 services if a single component is missing or handicapped by not having current technology (as in the case of E911 and NG 911), the result will be the LEAST common functionality across the communication chain. In fact, in some cases, that functionality could be no enhanced 911 location services and just the routing of calls to some PSAP/ECC. In the case of the worse possible failure, 911 calls could be blocked entirely. For example, the blockage occurred in the April 2014 outage, where 911 calls from Washington state, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota, and Florida occurred due to a simple software database error high up in the network core that ended up being a single point of failure.

In this case, the network used a numerical counter to assign a unique call record number to each 911 call traversing the network the terminating PSAP/ECC would utilize to query for the location record of that call. The counter overflowed with a number larger than it could handle, ultimately assigning the unique identifier to create an error. In some cases, it was reported that the call delivery destination had already been determined, so calls reached the appropriate PSAP/ECC. However, the information needed to retrieve the location record was missing because of the overflow. In other cases, the call destination routing could not be determined, and calls were reportedly left hanging in the network. Finally, the incident seriously degraded several 911 calls and resulted in record fines from the Federal Communications Commission.

Back to the Enterprise and the question at hand:

The answer is simple once you understand the architecture and roles of the different components. What many people find helpful is an example I have used over the past few years that describes the same problem using standard technology we all use today. Let’s first define some new elements we will utilize in place of NG 911 elements.

Legacy DataB&W TV Show|Legacy 911 PSAPB&W TV Set
NG911 DataColor TV Show|NG911 PSAPColor TV Set

 Armed with this correlation, you can now determine functionality.

A B&W TV Show viewed on a B&W TV is seen in B&W

A B&W TV Show viewed on a Color TV is ALSO seen in B&W

A Color TV Show viewed on a B&W TV is seen in B&W

A Color TV Show viewed on a Color TV is seen in COLOR

The relevant lesson here is that NG 911 services can exist anywhere within the network. However, before they are deliverable to the destination, an end-to-end NG911 connection must exist, including the network connectivity in the middle (likely to be the last element to be upgraded). Fortunately, in today’s modern world of the Internet and massive connectivity commonly available nationwide in most areas, an over-the-top model has been developed to bypass the legacy 911 network. In addition, specialized 911 carriers have emerged that can deliver calls nationwide over a secondary infrastructure that is IP-based. These networks eliminate the localized 911 silos that exist in the legacy network, eliminating the localized routing issues and the dedicated trunking issues, and enable full real-time multimedia and location information to be delivered to any PSAP/ECC over Standard browser-based infrastructure in a standalone environment, or one embedded in existing desktop applications like the RapidSOS Jurisdiction View and natively available standard APIs to any PSAP/ECC CAD vendor.

To answer the last part of Keith’s question? YES – The Enterprise STILL plays a significant role in the NG 911 call flow. While applications like Microsoft Teams transport the data, their ability to collect, correlate, and validate the endpoint information may not exist in every environment. For example, location Information Servers at the carrier network level do not have appropriate access, nor should they, to local Layer 2 and Device/User information to make the relevant decisions. However, these carrier network-level applications can follow explicit routing instructions and data presentation to get the appropriate data to the suitable PSAP/ECC.


Please follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Be sure to check out my Blogs and Podcasts on: Fletch.TV

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