CRTC announces enhancements to wireless 911 services

    OTTAWA-GATINEAU, Feb. 2 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today gave Canadian wireless service
providers a one-year deadline to upgrade their 911 services. By February 1,
2010, at the latest, emergency responders must be able to determine the
location of a person using a cellphone to call 911 with much greater
    "With more than 20 million wireless subscribers in Canada, it is
imperative that emergency responders can quickly and accurately locate those
who use their cellphones to call 911," said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C.,
Chairman of the CRTC. "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."
    In an emergency situation where the caller is unable to speak or cannot
identify his or her location, the ability to provide emergency responders with
more accurate information of the cellphone's location can make the difference
between life and death. Current 911 services rely on the position of the
cellphone tower nearest to the caller. As such, emergency responders are only
able to determine if a caller is in a sector within the area served by the
tower, and not a specific area or location.
    The enhanced features that will be implemented over the next 12 months
represent a significant improvement to current wireless E911 services. Using
wireless-location technology such as Global Positioning System or
triangulation technology, emergency responders will be able to receive a
caller's location generally within a radius of 10 to 300 metres.
    Although the CRTC has given the wireless industry a one-year deadline to
put the enhanced 911 features into operation, they will be available in some
markets much sooner. The Commission encourages wireless service providers to
offer the enhanced 911 features as soon as possible.
    Wireless service providers must inform their customers of the
availability, characteristics and limitations of their enhanced 911 services
before they are implemented, and reiterate them on an annual basis thereafter.
    In addition, any new wireless service provider entering the Canadian
market after February 1, 2010, will be required to support the enhanced 911
features from the moment it launches.

    The CRTC

    The CRTC is an independent public authority that regulates and supervises
broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.

    Information on wireless 911 services
    Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-40

    Reference document: Telecom Decision CRTC 2003-53
    and Telecom Decision CRTC 2003-53-1

                            Wireless 911 services

    Newer technologies have made it easier to locate a person using a
cellphone to make a 911 emergency call. This is particularly important in
emergency situations where the caller is unable to speak or cannot identify
his or her location.
    To enhance the safety and security of Canadians, the Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is requiring wireless
service providers to upgrade their 911 services by February 1, 2010, at the

    How do wireless 911 services work?

    Wireless service providers link 911 emergency calls from the nearest
cellphone tower to one of the networks operated by the traditional
telecommunications companies, such as TELUS Communications Company or Bell
Canada. These companies are responsible for connecting the call to a 911 call
centre that serves a specific geographic area and whose operators dispatch
police, fire or ambulance personnel. The 911 call centres, which are also
known as public safety answering points, are managed and funded by municipal
and/or provincial authorities.

    Are wireless 911 services available across Canada?

    Wireless 911 is available wherever municipal and provincial authorities
have set up a 911 call centre.

    What information do call centre operators currently have at their

    Call centre operators can now instantly access a caller's cellphone number
and the location of the cellphone tower nearest to the caller. Using this
information, emergency responders are only able to determine if a caller is in
a sector within the area served by the tower, which could be a radius of up to
four kilometres from the tower in urban areas and 20 kilometres in rural

    What improvements will be made by February 1, 2010?

    New enhanced features will make use of wireless-location technologies to
greatly improve the ability of emergency responders to locate a person using a
cellphone to call 911. For instance, wireless service providers can use Global
Positioning System (GPS) or triangulation technology and then automatically
transmit the caller's location to the call centre operator. This will allow
emergency responders to determine a caller's location generally within a
radius of 10 to 300 metres from the cellphone.

    Are all cellphones equipped with GPS capability?


    What if my cellphone does not have GPS capability?

    Wireless service providers that do not use GPS capability will rely on
triangulation technology. This technology determines the caller's location by
measuring the cellphone signal's distance from the nearest towers. Although it
does not require the cellphone to have GPS capability, triangulation
technology will provide emergency responders with a similar degree of
    For wireless service providers that are only using GPS wireless-location
technology, subscribers will need to purchase a cellphone that has this
capability in order to benefit from the new enhanced 911 features. However,
subscribers who have cellphones without GPS capability will continue to
receive the same 911 service that exists today.

    What if I have a cellphone but do not subscribe to any service?

    Even if you do not have any pre-paid minutes or a service plan, you will
still be able to dial 911 in an emergency situation. However, you will receive
wireless 911 services as they exist today. Emergency responders will not be
able to use the enhanced features to determine your location with a greater
degree of accuracy.

    Why will it take one year to upgrade wireless 911 services?

    In many cases, the technology currently used by many wireless service
providers, traditional telecommunications companies and 911 call centres must
be upgraded to support the enhanced features. This will be done in stages over
the next 12 months. A working group consisting of representatives from the
industry and other interested parties will submit a proposed roll-out schedule
to the CRTC by May 4, 2009.

For further information:

For further information: Media Relations:,
(819) 997-9403, Fax: (819) 997-4245; General Inquiries: (819) 997-0313, TDD:
(819) 994-0423, Fax: (819) 994-0218 Toll-free #: 1-877-249-CRTC (2782), TDD -
Toll-free #: 1-877-909-CRTC (2782) On-line services:; These
documents are available in alternative format upon request.

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