Emergency VoIP Gets a Private Line

Voice over IP manufacturer VoIP, Inc., launched what it says is the industry’s first private network 911 service for Internet-based telephony, officials said Thursday.

The service is available today on a trial basis, with general availability of the entire product in October, to be showcased at the CompTel/ASCENT Fall 2005 Convention and Expo in Orlando, Fla.

VoIP 911 is offered through the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company’s subsidiary, VoiceOne Communications, and uses a mix of the subsidiary’s data network and VoIP, Inc.’s routers, softswitches and media gateway controllers.

Emergency 911 (e911) services for VoIP calls have been hit-and-miss to date. Emergency calls from VoIP phones are frequently routed to public safety administrative offices rather than Public Service Answering Points (PSAP).

VoIP, Inc., officials say they have the network, through its MPLS VoiceOne network, and the expertise to effectively deliver VoIP 911 calls to the appropriate PSAP. Calls are routed through the VoiceOne network’s five redundant entry points across the U.S. and managed through a Web portal or XML-based provisioning system.

The company is providing a number of quality of service (QoS) features to ensure the VoIP 911 call is completed.

Subscribers can choose to have e-mail or SMS notifications of their calls, as well as a phone number to call that confirms the call was placed. An online interface is available for subscribers to modify their physical address or mark their phone as nomadic, in the case of mobile devices.

“The industry has been focused on creating quick solutions to meet [Federal Communications Commission] deadlines related to recent regulatory actions that require VoIP service providers to offer 911 services to customers,” Steven Ivester, VoIP, Inc., CEO, said in a statement.

“Some of these solutions continue to use unsecured and best-effort transport of the Internet for critical emergency calls.”

VoIP service providers have until the end of the year to provide emergency service to its customers after a ruling by FCC commissioners in May. The FCC established a task force last week to ensure providers complied with the regulation.

Shawn Lewis, VoIP, Inc., CTO, said the VoIP 911 service connects to 40 percent of the PSAPs in the U.S., and is expected to reach 60 percent in October.

Emergency calls for areas not directly connected to a PSAP, or with subscribers marked nomadic, are handled by the company’s 24/7 network operations center (NOC), which forwards the call to the appropriate PSAP.

The VoIP, Inc., service is another option for Internet telephony service providers who need to work with the Baby Bells, which own most of the physical data network in the U.S. Rather than rely on the incumbent telephone company’s e911 service, they can go through the VoiceOne network instead.

Relations between service providers and carriers can be quite strained, as evidenced by Vonage and SBC earlier this year. Vonage complained about SBC’s refusal to hold joint e911 trials.

SBC said it cannot agree to participate in proprietary trials with the company and said it would work on e911 through the industry standards process.

Lewis said that as a certified competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), the Bells are forced to work with them for 911 service.

“I’m a carrier, so where Vonage doesn’t have the clout, SBC cannot refuse to give me 911 interconnection; I’m a certified CLEC, so they can’t refuse me,” he said. “They can refuse Vonage, they can’t refuse me.”

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