The absence of emergency 911 calling capabilities within VoIP telephony has
been a huge barrier to large scale adoption of Internet phone services but a
small New Jersey-based firm thinks it has found an answer.
Vonage, which sells SIP-based VoIP
service to broadband users, is testing a new technology that promises 911 calling capabilities, complete with
location-based connection to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP).
Vonage’s Emergency Calling Service won’t exactly offer Enhanced 911 capabilities, which
provides 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls
but will allow a system to route emergency calls to the nearest PSAP.
The service could be rolled out for the company’s 18,000 subscribers by
the end of April.
“The idea is to have a manual way of determining where our customers are
and routing their 911 calls to the correct public safety entry point,”
Vonage VP of product development told internetnews.com.
Existing e911 service is tied to a physical location, allowing the police
or fire department to see the actual phone number and address when a
distress call is made. But, because Vonage lets its subscribers choose
their own area codes (a user in New York can have a California area code),
it’s not possible to directly link up with the PSAPs.Vonage plans to implement technology that will pin the service to a
physical address. For example, even if a 911 call is made in California
from a New York (212) area code, Vonage’s technology will still determine
the physical California address and route the emergency call to a public
safety access point there.
The addition of 911 calling is a huge boost to Vonage’s efforts to
position its Digital Voice
service as a legitimate alternative to traditional phone companies. Before
now, VoIP on high-speed connections has been marketed strictly as a
secondary line service but, with the addition of 911 calling, it makes it an
easier sell to consumers and small businesses.
Vonage’s Digital Voice, which offers flat rate calling plans for between
$25 and $40 a month, uses a standard router to split a subscriber’s
broadband connection between their modem and an ATA (analog telephone
adapter) box. The ATA box, which the company is giving away for free,
converts the digital signal to an analog telephone signal, allowing a
regular home phone to be plugged into the ATA to deliver dial tone and a
Vonage also sells the IP telephony technology to ISPs and MSOs looking to
bundle phone services with regular cable television services. Earlier this
month, Vonage scored a big client win when EarthLink
announced it would use the company’s technology to launch a private label phone
service for high speed subscribers.