Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Australia to Improve Emergency Call Location Tracking

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has started a consultation on improving access to location information from mobile phone calls made to the emergency services number (Triple Zero).

"Mobile phone calls now account for around 63 per cent of all calls made to Triple Zero. This is not well appreciated, but unlike landline phones, emergency calls from mobile phones don't automatically give emergency operators accurate details about a caller's whereabouts," said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

"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. But there are times - estimated at less than one 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."

The ACMA has released a discussion paper on its proposal to amend emergency call service rules to require mobile carriers to provide all location information available in association with a genuine emergency call at the request of an emergency service organisation.

"The ACMA is concerned that the community may have unrealistic expectations about the current ability of mobile technology to help them in an emergency situation - for example, a recent ACMA survey found that 52 per cent of people believe they can be located automatically via mobile phone."

"This is not the case. There is currently no single and widely-available method that can accurately pinpoint a mobile phone user's location and then pass the information to emergency operators. Such accuracy is not expected to be made available on a reasonable cost basis for some years to come and will always be difficult in a country with the land mass and sparse population of Australia," said Mr Chapman.

To better inform the community on these issues, the ACMA has also released its 2009 study into whether there is an appropriate and consistent mobile location solution for Australia's emergency call service that cost-effectively meets demonstrated needs.

Submissions should be provided to the ACMA by 18 June 2010 and will be used to inform the drafting process of formal amendments to the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009.

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