Vonage, SBC Scrap Over E911

VoIP upstart Vonage said regional carrier SBC rebuffed its recent offer to hold enhanced 911 (E911) trials.

SBC responded by saying Vonage is attempting to bypass industry groups
working to solve the problem in hopes of providing “E911 on-the-cheap.”

Vonage has been under fire recently. On Feb. 2, one of its customers in
Houston was unable to reach an emergency operator during a home invasion.

The incident triggered a Congressional hearing and a lawsuit from
the state of Texas.

Jeffrey Citron, Vonage CEO, made the collaboration offer to Ed Whitacre,
SBC’s CEO, in a Feb. 18 letter. “I ask for your cooperation in launching an
effort to test and deploy a joint VoIP E-911 solution within the next 30 to
60 days,” Citron said.

Such an effort would require SBC, which operates in a 13-state region, to
open some routers and databases, Vonage said. Christopher T. Rice, SBC’s
executive vice president of network planning and engineering, responded.

“We cannot agree … to participate in a separate, proprietary trial with
Vonage, which is just one of many companies that provide, or will in the
near future provide, Voice over Internet Protocol service,” Rice wrote to

Instead, Rice said SBC will continue to work on industry interface
standards. SBC is active in a number of groups, including the National
Number Emergency Association, he said, adding that the group will hold
its annual tech development conference next week, and E911 is on the agenda.

Wes Warnock, an SBC spokesman, echoed Rice’s statements about working
through the industry today.

“This industry has always sought solutions through
industry-standards-setting organizations,” Warnock told internetnews.com. “That’s how it’s done on the scale we’re talking about. Rather than
dismiss it, Vonage should embrace it and work within it like the ‘broadband
phone company’ it claims to be.”

Warnock said SBC sells 911 services to VoIP providers today. “Vonage appears
more concerned about finding ways to provide E911 on-the-cheap.”

Citron said he’s disappointed with the response from SBC and renewed calls
to begin trials.

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