Urgent Communications: NextNav Selected By Top Wireless Carrier to Deliver Z-Axis Location for 911 calls

NextNav announced that it has signed an agreement with a ‘top wireless carrier’ to deliver vertical-location—or Z-axis—information about an 911 caller to a public-safety answering point (PSAP) when an emergency call is made.

Dan Hight, NextNav’s vice president of business development and partnerships, said that the NextNav 911 Z-axis solution—using the same vertical-location technology leveraged by FirstNet to locate first responders—meets the FCC performance requirements that carriers must demonstrate by April 3. NextNav’s Z-axis solution is designed to work with any operating system (OS) and most devices in the market today, he said.

“They do have to have a barometric-pressure sensor in them of a sufficient ability to work,” Hight said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “That’s generally going to be most devices that have been put out in the past five years. Obviously, that’s the bulk of any carrier’s [device] base at this point in time.

“It does have to have a barometric-pressure sensor, and it does have to have a data connection—that hasn’t changed. But there’s not a limitation on what devices this service can work on and what operating systems this service can be invoked on.”

NextNav’s carrier partner declined to be named publicly at this time, Hight said.

XY location of 911 callers has been provided by wireless carriers for more than a decade with improving accuracy, but this information has been of limited value in certain situation, notably in dense urban locations with tall buildings. In these scenarios, public-safety personnel often have lost precious time in their response efforts, because they have to search multiple floors in a structure to locate a 911 caller.

With this in mind, the FCC has required carriers to provide Z-axis information to give responders a better idea of the vertical location of a 911 caller. By April 3, carriers are required to provide this vertical-location information with 911 calls using a technology that meets the FCC accuracy requirement of being within 3 meters—about the height of a floor in most buildings—of the correct vertical location at least 80% of the time.

NextNav CEO Ganesh Pattabiraman said that the company’s agreement with the unnamed carrier is a significant step to meeting the FCC’s vision.

“For over two decades, one of public safety’s key needs has been 3D geolocation information—especially floor-level vertical location,” Pattabiraman said in a prepared statement. “Partnering with one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers to deliver precise, Z-axis information will not only improve geolocation information for PSAPs, but save lives by reducing emergency response times by over 80%.

“This adoption of our Pinnacle technology for 911 marks a historic step forward for communities around the nation, and public safety as a whole.”

Hight noted that NextNav’s Pinnacle 911 solution met the FCC’s accuracy threshold on 94% of tests.

When fully implemented, Z-axis location will accompany 911 calls automatically, with no additional work on the part of callers, Hight said. For PSAPs, translating the height-above-ellipsoid (HAE) vertical location provided with the 911 call into a meaningful reference point will require significant efforts, he said.

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