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Ofcom sets out '999' strategy for VoIP operators
Friday 07 December 2007 17:25:50 by Sebastien Lahtinen

Industry regulator Ofcom has this week announced that from September 2008 operators of Voice-over-IP services will be required to provide access to the '999' emergency services number.

There has been much discussion within the industry about the issue of emergency calls for operators. Some operators have expressed concerns about the stability of VoIP for life-of-death situations since it relies on an Internet connection which is more likely to fail than a simple phone line. This is further complicated by the arrangements that need to be put in place by operators to ensure a consistent and reliable access to '999' emergency services, which can also be dialled by using the '112' code more frequently seen in the rest of Europe. It is also more difficult to transit location information since a VoIP user could be located anywhere in the UK (or indeed the rest of the world) when making the call.

"We welcome this announcement, as most of the business VoIP provider community have been working towards compliance with the 999 regulations and will be fully compliant well in advance of September. Safety of life is a very serious requirement for our customers and a key differentiator for businesses buying VoIP services."

Peter Gradwell, gradwell dot com Ltd.

Ofcom's decision to require access to emergency services has been made because of the confusion that consumers face with the ever merging of phone and Internet services. It will be more and more difficult to discern whether a telephone call is routed over VoIP or the traditional PSTN network, especially for someone who doesn't understand the technology or isn't aware of the specific setup at a location. Ofcom point out that a "delay of seconds" could result in increased harm and given this risk in the context of rapid take-up of VoIP services, it was essential to act now. Until now, providers were expected to inform consumers through stickers on phones or messages that emergency calls were not supported. Ofcom's research has shown that in its October 2006 survey, 78% of households believed they could call 999 from their VoIP service, even though this was not possible on the services they subscribed to.

Providers of "click-to-call" services (where you can call a limited number of destinations by clicking on a website form), and services which only allow dialling of international numbers are excluded from the regulation since it was believed that there would be less likelihood of confusion.

Comments

Posted by farci over 9 years ago
Good move - it's been in place in USA for a while now
Posted by ryster over 9 years ago
"Some operators have expressed concerns about the stability of VoIP for life-of-death situations since it relies on an Internet connection which is more likely to fail than a simple phone line." Surely a service that is more likely to fail is better than having no service at all? Having no service is like having a 100% failure rate.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Dont understand all the hoohah myself, dial 999 on a normal phone for god sake.
Posted by rasczak over 9 years ago
And there was no need for mobile phones to be able to call emergency services either as you could just use a normal phone couldn't you. Who's to say that a landline will be available in an emergency, it may be only a VOIP line available.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Thats another point rasczak if you can dial 999 on a mobile also (which obviously you can) there really is no need for them to take this as seriously as they are. There are plenty of more things which have more bite ofcom should be worrying about. Also if you are using a VOIP service with a USB phone on your home computer what the hell is the point, you dial 999 in an emergency, normally that means you are not going to patiently plug in your computer and its usb phone and wait (oh and yes i know not all VOIP uses a USB phone, thats just another example of why this is a minor thing)
Posted by rasczak over 9 years ago
You are not looking ahead are you Carpetburn. You are all for LLU providers and the like so that you don't have to use BT for anything. Now that provides an opportunity for internet access without the traditional line to be associated with it, the voice part is all done over IP with its own hardware separate to the PC for this. Yes this this probably not going to happen tomorrow, and OFCOM do have other things to look at, but better to sort something now than wait until it is common and it causes problems.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"better to sort something now than wait until it is common and it causes problems."

Caps, Throttles, Mis-advertising and so much more are problems that are here right now yet ofcom do very little about those. Oh and i wouldnt say im in favour of LLU, i wouldnt as an example recommend talk talk to my worse enemy, I am in favour of services that do as the spill says though.
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