CRTC orders telecom networks to be “text-ready” by end of 2020

Radio towers

Radio towers

Technology networks that support Canada’s 9-1-1 systems must be updated by the country’s telephone and wireless carriers by the end of 2020 in order to be ready for next generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) services to be delivered to Primary Public Safety Answer Points  and the public. This paves the way for text to 9-1-1 for the public in the future.

The timeline was announced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on June 1, following a yearlong proceeding on the development and implementation of a regulatory framework for NG9-1-1, a North American-wide initiative to update 9-1-1 infrastructure in order to improve public emergency communications services in an increasingly wireless and internet-enabled world.

When the new Internet-based networks are ready, E-Comm will move to implement the many aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 within its service areas as quickly as possible. “We were the first centre in Canada to implement Text with 9-1-1 for the deaf and speech impaired and we see moving to a new infrastructure as a natural evolution. We have outstanding technical and operational staff to make this happen,” said Mike Webb, E-Comm’s Vice-President of Technology Services.

As part of the announcement, the CRTC has directed existing 9-1-1 networks to be decommissioned by the middle of 2023, a move that is expected to encourage municipal, provincial and territorial governments to make the transition to next generation 9-1-1 services like texting.

“The CRTC’s decision will mean that we can begin planning for the modernization of our technology systems in anticipation of next-generation 9-1-1. With this deadline in place for carriers, we now have a much better idea of how we will best be able to connect to the new technology being used for these networks,” added Webb.

In other important public safety communication news, first responders and other organizations have an opportunity to participate in a federal task group that will start to engage with stakeholders, including E-Comm, across the country later this year on the establishment of a potential new Canadian Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN).

PSBNs are secure, high-speed wireless data communications networks used by emergency responders to share information and receive texts and audio and video through secure mobile devices such as smartphones during major crises and day-to-day operations. The PSBN can only be used by public safety agencies, so responders’ critical information will not get jammed up in overloaded public networks, which can happen during mass public gatherings like sports events or major fires where spectators have their smartphones out to grab footage to upload to social media or to send to friends.

In the long-term, the establishment and evolution of the PSBN will also allow E-Comm’s Next Generation Radio network to integrate with the broadband data network, providing E-Comm’s radio partners with additional voice radio network access. A PSBN will also enable Next Generation 9-1-1 technologies that will be introduced in the coming years, resulting in greater capacity and more secure information sharing among police, fire, ambulance and other emergency service personnel.