Regulator to help lost emergency services

Location-based services unavailable to triple Zero

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMCA) has released a discussion paper proposing to improve location information from mobile phones in emergencies.

The proposal, based on a study by the authority, would require mobile carriers to provide available location information using both cell triangulation and GPS information when an emergency call is made.

ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said the inability for emergency service operators to accurately locate callers is worrying.

"This is not an issue for the vast majority of mobile calls made to Triple Zero as in most cases the caller can tell the emergency operator where they are located," Chapman said, adding that about 63 per cent of all emergency calls are made from mobile phones.

"But there are times — estimated at less than 1 per cent of calls — when people are too distressed or unfamiliar with their environment to report their location. It is in such instances where access to enhanced location information will assist emergency service organisations locate callers."

Provisions under Section 287 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 already require mobile carriers to disclose mobile location information to law enforcement agencies in the event of a life-threatening situation, but telcos differ in the way they implement tracking services.

Two Australian telcos have implemented location-based services since 2004, but these are not utilised for emergency situations.

The ACMA said most carriers are only able to provide very broad geographic information in regards to the location of callers, and it cannot mandate a single solution for all emergency technologies.

The ACMA has called for submissions on its proposals which will be used to inform the drafting process of formal amendments to the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009. Should the proposal be accepted, the regulator said wireless carriers will be required to upgrade their GPS systems in order to comply with the new mandates.

The tentative proposal includes:

  • Future location-specific deployments by carriers will be made available for use by emergency services.
  • Carriers that have not yet deployed location-based technologies will be given a temporary exemption process to allow for development.
  • All carriers will ultimately use a common system to deliver automated location information to emergency services.

The ACMA expects to finalise its proposal by the end of the year and start implementing changes from early next yea

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Tags mobile phonesAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)location based services

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