What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows people to place local and long-
distance calls over an IP network, like the Internet or a cable television IP network. VoIP providers
convert voice calls into packets of data that zip through a high-speed Internet connection just like
email. When received, the data is re-converted for an end-user application like a traditional phone
VoIP service is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years as it allows a consumer the
option to move his or her phone from one location to another as long as broadband
connectivity is available.
The technology is also attractive to customers because they can typically receive local
and long-distance phone service and other telephony features such as voice mail, caller
identification and call waiting for significantly less than they pay for traditional wired
phone service. Utilizing information technology capabilities and convergence, VoIP also
allows for a number of additional features not available on traditional wired phone
What has the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said about VoIP E9-1-1
Given the far reaching capabilities, opportunity for greater consumer choice, and the
numerous applications being developed for VoIP, the FCC has been generally supportive
of the technology and its potential in the communications marketplace. Supporting future
developments in VoIP, the FCC has issued several Reports and Orders that recognize
federal authority over VoIP, including emergency communications response capabilities.
On May 19, 2005, the FCC released Report and Order 05-116, which established rules
for implementing VoIP E9-1-1 service and established VoIP provider obligations in
deploying emergency services. The Order requires two-way interconnected VoIP
providers to deploy E9-1-1 service using the native 9-1-1 network to all Enhanced Public
Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) by November 29, 2005 (120 days after the effective
date of the Order).
The entire Order, including Commission statements, can be viewed at the FCC’s website
at: www.fcc.gov/voip Does this website have additional info – post Nov 2005?
Show link to FCC FAQs ? Check out the link to the NARUC/FCC material, and the VoIP
fact sheet as well – duplicates FAQ list?
Do Public Safety Authorities have to submit a request to a VoIP provider to
receive E9-1-1 calls in their PSAP?
As stated in the FCC Order, PSAPs are not required to request
E9-1-1 service from VoIP providers; rather it is the obligation of
the provider to interconnect to the native 9-1-1 network. VoIP
service providers are actively working with PSAPs and other
9-1-1 entities to complete the deployment of E9-1-1 service
where VoIP service is available.
How will VoIP E9-1-1 calls reach the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP)?
An E9-1-1 call placed using VoIP service will be routed through the 9-1-1 Selective
Router to the PSAP serving the subscriber’s self-identified address using a pseudo
Automatic Number identification (pANI) referred to, for VoIP, as an ESQK (Emergency
Service Query Key).
The ESQK is used to:
• Route the call to the appropriate PSAP
• Relay the Automatic Location Information (ALI) query to the appropriate third-
VoIP E9-1-1 solutions which meet the FCC Order will provide calltakers with the
callback number and subscriber provided location information for their customers who
Reasons why PSAPs may not want to take VoIP 9-1-1 calls?
- fee payment
- avoidance of call delivery to 10 digit numbers at the PSAP (FCC Order removed this
- Level of E9-1-1 service
Many of these issues are mitigated by pending legislation.
Enhanced 9-1-1 Call Flow
Voice with ESQK
Emergency Selective Router or
Services 9-1-1 Access Tandem
Query Response with
Query with ESRN and ESQK
Location Record (ESQK, CBN, Location) ALI Response with
Are there any special upgrades PSAPs need in order to receive E9-1-1 calls from
If your PSAP has access to dynamic ALI data update for E9-1-1 calls, there should not be any
additional upgrades required EXPAND WORDING?
1) Why are Memorandums of Understanding being used in regards to delivery of 9-1-1?
Due to variations in operational and legal considerations around the country, some of
the open issues are being dealt with using MOUs. Examples relate to surcharge fee
replacement, testing processes, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
2) What is the typical method for VoIP delivery to E9-1-1? MAY NOT NEED- SEE
VONAGE LIST – combine?
The FCC Order requirements include voice delivery, with the ESQK code for routing and
ALI access query, through the Selective Router, with callback number and subscriber
provided registered location (address) via the ALI data path. Implementation varies due
to technical limitations and timeline issues, including training and testing processes.
A reference document is NENA's recent VoIP Position Statement, on the website at
3 )My understanding of VoIP calls, some with be delivered as land based [static] and
some as wireless [nomadic], and will differ accordingly?
We agree need 3 definitions = but better and variations use Glossary items?
Nomadic calls are placed from interface devices that can be moved to any internet
connection - they are not necessarily wireless. Nomadic calls are made through internet
connections, such as DSL broadband, at specific locations, and are called nomadic
because the user can move their interface device from connection to connection
periodically, at will. During the movement, the user has no connectivity or calling
Static VoIP service is where the connection point is never changed. The interface device
is either permanently fixed, or service is denied if the interface box is relocated.
Wireless VoIP such as WiFI and WiMAX wireless services allow true mobility of the
caller, similar to cellular wireless. Service is available to the device as long as it in range
of a network that allows for a connection.
The difference in E9-1-1 lies with the difference between static based VoIP and Nomadic
(or Wireless) based Voice over Internet. Static systems typically connect through a
CLEC, much in the same way a CLEC does E9-1-1 interface, and often utilizes MSAG
validation, etc. Nomadic cases operate as described above in item 2 at this time.
Why are Non-local telephone numbers an issue?
Some VoIP service providers have also made telephone numbers available from any
location in their footprint. It is therefore possible to have telephone numbers assigned to
a device where the number does not match the local wireline telephone number
assignments (Example – a device in Virginia can have a telephone number from New
York). These non-local telephone numbers create anomalies for many of the 9-1-1
system components that were designed around the geographic relevance of the NPA
assignment. Much like a “Roamer” in wireless, the treatment of calls placed from non-
local telephone numbers need special treatment where PSAPs are provisioned with MF-
CAMA trunking or where default routing is based on local NPA or NPA-NXX
assignments. The current treatment of these numbers is through the use of a pANI or
ESQK, and via the same methods as are currently being used for Nomadic VoIP service.
What is a Next Generation 9-1-1 System and why is it
Trends in communications mobility and convergence have put the 9-1-1
system at a crossroads. New wireless and VoIP technologies have
underscored the limitations of the current 9-1-1 infrastructure. The nation’s
9-1-1 system, based on decades-old technology, cannot handle increasingly
mobile communications, and the progressively more popular digital and
Internet based communications that enable text, voice, images, and video to
become increasingly commonplace in personal communications. Yet our
nation’s emergency call-takers are being asked to do one of the most
important jobs in our society using communication technology that most
businesses have moved far beyond. Simply put, we are relying on
increasingly outdated analog technology in an overwhelmingly digital world.
There is now a growing consensus on the shortcomings of the present 9-1-1
system and the need for a new, more capable system. Taking advantage of
advances in information and communications technologies can mean a more
feature rich IP-enabled emergency response system. Most business,
government, and public safety communications systems are transitioning to
VoIP and IP-based networks because they are more efficient, cost-effective,
and enable convergence of voice and date in entirely new ways. These
technologies enable major advances in the ability of all users and public
safety responders to send or receive critical information to, from and beyond
the emergency services network, thus making possible a set of potentially
life-saving advances in emergency services.
What can members of Congress do to unleash a set of breakthrough
emergency advances by accelerating the transition to an IP-Based
The IP technology needed to transform existing 9-1-1 networks into next-
generation networks is already available. Legislation pending in both the
House and Senate, and cosponsored by the E911 Caucus co-chairs, not only
focuses on accelerating workable solutions for today, but on accelerating the
transition to a next generation IP-based emergency network capable of a host
of breakthrough emergency enhancements. The bipartisan IP-Enabled Voice
Communications and Public Safety Act of 2005 – H. R. 2418 and S. 1063 –
would build on the FCC’s swift VoIP E911 action by harnessing the power of IP
communications to help unleash a host of breakthrough emergency advances.
This important legislation follows up on the Enhance 9-1-1 Act of 2004 by
requiring the National 9-1-1 Implementation and Coordination Office to
develop and report back to Congress on a plan for migrating to a national IP-
enabled emergency network.
Has anyone begun work to advance a Next Generation 9-1-1 Network?
Building on the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) E9-1-1
Future Path Plan published in 2001, and other activities by the Internet
Engineering Task Force (IETF), NENA and IETF representatives initiated
development on an IP_based Next Generation 9-1-1 system design in 2003.
More recently, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS),
the FCC’s NRIC advisory groups, the DOT/NHTSA NG9-1-1 program initiative,
and other groups like the Voice on the Net Coalition have published related
critiques and action plans.
What are the benefits of transitioning to an IP-based emergency network?
America’s emergency service leaders are actively working toward the
development of a feature rich IP-enabled emergency response system. By
migrating to such an IP-based emergency network, 9-1-1 calls might one day
- Automatic language preferences. By pre-selecting a user’s
language preference, an emergency call could be automatically routed
to a call taker that speaks the caller’s native language, potentially
saving time and saving lives.
- Information on a caller’s medical status. If consumers choose to
pre-enter vital medical information (e.g., whether an Alzheimer patient
lives at the registered location; the heart medicine a subscriber uses),
call takers and emergency responders could access critical information
that could make the difference between life and death.
- Maps and other location specific information. Call takers could
access maps of commercial buildings or notes about hazardous on-site
chemicals – data that could prove critical to emergency responders.
- International emergency number compatibility. New technology
standards and architectures could enable global solutions for users
who purchase a service in the U.S. but travel internationally or visa
versa (where different emergency dialing sequences are required). For
example, Britain uses emergency sequences 112 and 999; Japan uses
119 and 110; in Argentina, users dial 101 for an ambulance or police,
but 107 for a fire; in the Yukon Province of Canada, users dial three
digits plus 3333 for an ambulance, three digits plus 2222 for a fire,
and three digits plus 5555 for police. Future IP-based technologies
could help route all 911 calls to the proper authorities, regardless of
- Ensure a high probability that all 9-1-1 calls can be answered.
During Katrina, some 36 PSAPs went down and couldn’t answer 9-1-1
calls. An IP enabled emergency network improves the ability for
overflow calls to be rerouted, just like a modern call center. For
massive emergencies, such overflow could be critical. An IP network
also allows nomadic 9-1-1 calltakers to plug in and take calls from a
remote location in an emergency.
None of these capabilities are yet possible with today’s 9-1-1 network – but all
are made possible as PSAPs upgrade to VoIP and IP capabilities, as Congress
adopts legislation to advance a nationwide IP-based emergency network, and as
NENA, NRIC, DOT, VON and others work through the key enablers for
accelerating IP-based emergency communication.
Are there examples of PSAPs who have already made the transition to an
IP-enabled local network?
Yes, when Elmore County, Alabama needed to upgrade their local PSAP
network, they found that they could do more and save more by transition to
an IP enabled inter-PSAP network – the first PSAP network in the country to
Saw savings of 35% to 45% off the bat. The county of about 60,000 has
5 remote PSAPs. They achieved savings of 35% to 45% by replacing their old
switch with a softswitch. They are now using VoIP to connect their 5 PSAPs in
the network using VoIP phones and a version of Asterisk VoIP server software
called Viper by Positron (see
Saw an additional monthly reduction in costs of $3500. They no longer
needed to buy their Automatic Location Information (ALI) service from the
incumbent providers and solution provider and thus saw further savings of
$3500 a month.
Gained More Control Over the Network. Now they have 2 more layers of
control over their network. They deployed network monitoring software that
provides them with more information on the status of their network and have
the ability to modify and make changes to the network on the fly.
Gained Critical New Emergency Response Capabilities. Elmore Country
now has overflow control which enables them to reroute calls to other
calltakers at other locations if all calltakers are busy. They also have a PSAP
in a suitcase that allows them to plug in as a 9-1-1 calltaker from anywhere
there is a broadband connection. They are in the process of acquiring a
mobile command center in an RV that will have 5 operator positions for use in
Are there other examples of PSAPs transitioning to VoIP and IP based
• Galveston Texas is now in the process of transitioning their PSAPs to
an IP network. Galveston is linking eight public-safety answering
points via an IP-backbone infrastructure. The solution integrates TCI’s
call control software and an Avaya softswitch to create a flexible and
redundant hub-and-spoke architecture that will carry voice and data
traffic over a private IP network and let PSAPs redirect calls to other
call centers in the event of overflow. Galveston will now have a
network where PSAPs can route overflow traffic in an emergency
situation to another dispatcher that will immediately be recognized by
the system. It’s a flexible, scalable way to network PSAPs together.
• Denver Metro & Fire is transitioning to an IP based emergency network
All of the above cases are examples of the first of several steps to move toward IP-
based E9-1-1 (Next Generation 9-1-1) and an overall emergency communications
system, which are building blocks for state and national level 9-1-1 and emergency
Are there lessons from Hurricane Katrina about the need for an IP-based
E9-1-1 emergency network?
Yes: During Katrina, some 36 PSAPs went down and couldn’t answer 9-1-1
calls. An IP enabled emergency network allows overflow calls to be rerouted
just like a modern call center. For massive emergencies, such overflow could
be critical. An IP network also allows nomadic 9-1-1 calltakers to plug in and
take calls from a remote location in an emergency. It also could allow people
with text messaging devices to contact public safety officials – something that
can be even more important as voice networks fail in situations like Katrina.
Won’t the transition to na inter-PSAP IP network be costly?
Not necessarily. PSAP networks like Elmore and Galveston are making the
switch to IP because running a modern IP network can be cheaper than
running both an older network and a new IP data network at the same time.
For the very same reasons, businesses across the country are switching to a
converged IP voice and data network and are often achieving savings of 40
Moving the entire Country to NG emergency communications and NG9-1-1 is
expected to ne a monetary challenge, which must be accomplished through
new forms of funding. NENA’s NG E9-1-1 Partner Program is addressing this
and several other enabling factors.
and the NG E9-1-1 2005 Program Report at that site.
How would the transition to an IP-enabled emergency network impact the
An IP-Based emergency network could deliver some life-saving advances to
the disability community as well. For example, with an IP-enabled emergency
network, the deaf could sign to emergency call takers over a VoIP-enabled
video connection, and the blind could text message calltakers for help. In
fact, when the FCC’s Internet Policy Working Group held its VoIP disability
summit in early May 2004, participants noted that VoIP’s ability to integrate
voice, video, and data over one network would be especially advantageous for
the disabled and particularly in emergencies.
At the FCC’s disability summit, T-Mobile described a converged wireless,
voice, and data device and its impact on the community. T-Mobile’s Sidekick,
a color PDA, offers e-mail, text messaging, Web browsing, and voice.
Although considered a phone, around 10 percent of Sidekick’s users are
hearing-impaired. Technological innovation and the convergence of voice,
video, and text over a single network can offer the disabled unprecedented
new capabilities – especially when the emergency network becomes IP-
enabled and is capable of receiving the type of information that VoIP
combined with video and data can offer.