Level 3 Expands E911 VOIP
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Level 3 Communications, Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT - News) announced today that it is significantly enhancing its E-911 platform for Voice over IP (VoIP) customers. The company is implementing a new emergency-calling network solution for so-called "nomadic" VoIP users, and plans to extend its E-911 coverage footprint to more than 70 percent of the country by the end of 2005. In addition, Level 3 plans to offer E-911 functionality through its (3)VoIP(SM) Local Inbound service, which enables customers to purchase inbound local, IP-based calling services in selected areas throughout the United States.
"Since the FCC issued its recent order on E-911 for VoIP, we have seen a significant increase in interest from customers looking for a path to compliance with the FCC's rapid implementation requirements," said Sureel Choksi, executive vice president of services for Level 3. "Having deployed extensive E-911 infrastructure over the course of the past eighteen months, Level 3 is in a unique position to assist our customers in meeting the FCC's requirements, and we believe these enhancements will further extend our leadership position as a network partner for VoIP providers across the industry."
Today's announcement was made in conjunction with the National Emergency Number Association's annual conference and trade show in Long Beach, Calif. Level 3 also announced today that it has become a program partner in NENA's Next Generation E-911 Program.
E-911 delivers address-specific and call-back information to public safety agencies whenever someone makes an emergency call, enabling first responders to be dispatched to the scene even if the caller is unable to speak or if the call is suddenly disconnected. On June 3, the Federal Communications Commission mandated that all VoIP providers interconnected to the public switched telephone network must provide E-911 with their consumer VoIP offerings. The E-911 requirement is expected to go into effect in November or December 2005.
For some time, Level 3 has provided traditional, fixed-line E-911 to its customers via a solution known as "direct trunking." The company has deployed network trunks to selective routers serving more than 2,260 rate centers around the country, and leverages a specialized switching infrastructure and an extensive interconnection plant with local phone companies.
Network solution for nomadic VoIP users
As part of its ruling, the FCC also directed that VoIP providers begin offering an E-911 solution for "nomadic" applications -- VoIP services that can be moved by subscribers from place to place. The mobility of Voice over IP is a benefit not possible with the traditional phone network; however, it can make it difficult to ensure callers are connected to the appropriate dispatch center when they call 9-1-1.
Level 3's network solution for nomadic users is based upon NENA's "I2" initiative, the second phase in a three-phase sequence of development that will ultimately fully integrate VoIP into E-911 design. It serves as a bridge between VoIP service providers and the existing E-911 system in the United States, and will provide a way for the end user to update his or her location as necessary.
Level 3, working with commercial VoIP Positioning Centers (VPCs) that collect and store updated location information, will augment its E-911 capability to allow customers to implement a process that queries the VPC when a 911 call is made to determine which Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Level 3 should send the call to. In order to take advantage of the Level 3 offering, VoIP providers will need to provide their subscribers with location update functionality, and assure that accurate subscriber location information is provided to the VPC on a timely basis. Implementation of the solution will also require coordination with public safety agencies throughout the United States.
Level 3 expects its network solution for nomadic VoIP customers to be generally available prior to the FCC's required date.
"Level 3 has been involved with future-state planning for VoIP since its inception," said Myrle McNeal, Level 3's senior vice president of Consumer Voice Services. "Working with NENA and others in the VoIP industry, we have developed a solution that integrates with customer networks to overcome the significant technical challenges posed by nomadic usage. We look forward to partnering with local city and county governments to allow VoIP subscribers to receive the 911 services that those agencies have worked so hard to deliver in the traditional wireline industry. We also believe that, over time, the development of VoIP networks will present real opportunities to improve public safety by converging voice signals with an array of digitized information about callers that is vital for first responders."
E-911 to be offered with Local Inbound service
Previously, Level 3's E-911 capability has been offered primarily with the company's (3)VoIP Enhanced(SM) Local service. By the end of 2005, VoIP providers will also be able to purchase E-911 through the company's (3)VoIP Local Inbound service, which enables customers to acquire local telephone numbers that can receive calls from the traditional phone network in IP format. The addition of E-911 capability to (3)VoIP Local Inbound will further enable ISPs, cable companies, local phone companies, long-distance providers and others to build E-911 functionality into the VoIP services they offer to enterprises and consumers.
The country's largest E-911 platform for VoIP
Level 3 also continues to increase the geographic availability of its E- 911 platform for VoIP, already the largest in the U.S. Today, Level 3 is able to provide E-911-enabled VoIP service to areas encompassing approximately 66 percent of the U.S. population, or 73 million households. The company plans to extend its coverage to more than 70 percent of U.S. households by the end of 2005.
"We believe E-911 functionality is critical to the continued mass adoption of VoIP as a consumer offering, and that our E-911 footprint serves as a real differentiator for Level 3 in the marketplace," said Choksi. "Our E-911 infrastructure is the most extensive in the nation, which enables our customers to quickly and cost-effectively obtain E-911 coverage for a significant portion of the U.S. population, via a single wholesale provider."
Level 3 Communications Inc.