Ofcom Not Addressing Location Issues for VoIP Calls say Vegastream

VoIP is currently the only voice call service not required to allow 999 calls. However, having reviewed its approach to ensuring maximum availability of access to emergency services, Ofcom has announced its decision to make 999 calls mandatory for certain types of VoIP services from 8th September 2008.

Steve Davis, EVP Sales and Marketing at Vegastream says that within its announcement, Ofcom has provided a number of guidelines and recommendations for ITSP’s to meet this standard.

“Put simply, an ITSP’s choice is this; undertake a costly, complex, legally binding and time consuming exercise of implementing its own emergency services provision, or interconnect with an existing network service and put the onus on the incumbent, with the technology and customer confidence in place and ready to go.

One of the most compelling of Ofcom’s recommendations is for all 999 calls to be made from a PSTN line in the case where a PSTN line remains in place. By deploying a gateway, service providers and enterprise customers can avoid the huge technical and financial challenges that this mandate could otherwise present.

Many of Ofcom’s suggested approaches do not adequately solve the location based information problem, for example, requiring the caller to physically provide their location:

– For the user to input location details prior to using the VoIP service
– For the emergency operator to request location information when the call is received.

For callers unable to speak for whatever reason, these approaches could result in serious delay and one death caused by technology service failure is without doubt one too many, and something that any ITSP does not want to be responsible for.

Deploying a gateway provides the all important location based information from where the call originated avoiding any delays in contacting the emergency services, and for the end-user, the service is continuous, transparent and guaranteed.

The Ofcom recommendation, and how ITSP’s achieve this, only serves to highlight the problematic issues still inherent in IP resiliency. In the event of network or power failure, the IP service and therefore access to 999 calls is lost from IP phones. ITSP’s will have to seek alternative methods of providing guaranteed access to this essential public service. Again, gateways can come to the rescue by allowing calls from IP phones to be made to emergency services over the PSTN.”