TCS, Skyhook Announce Wi-Fi E911 Deal

TCS, the leading U.S. Enhanced 911 provider, will add Wi-Fi location to its arsenal.

TCS, the Annapolis, Md., provider of E911 services to the wireless industry, is adding another wireless service.

According to senior vice president and chief marketing officer Tim Lorello, TeleCommunication Systems Inc. has inked a deal with Skyhook Inc. to use that companys Wi-Fi positioning services.

Lorello said Skyhook provides positioning services for 26 major metropolitan areas in the United States, and will be adding more this year.

"Skyhook is a company that has always focused on Wi-Fi," Lorello told in an exclusive interview Wednesday. "The interconnection is to begin immediately," he explained, adding that the service would be available in a few months.

Until now, providing Enhanced 911 services to wireless VOIP users has been essentially impossible.

The problem, according to Lorello, has been threefold.

First is getting the location information in the first place.

The second has been to route the call to the proper PSAP (public safety answering point), and the third has been to automatically provide the location data to the PSAP.

Once the TCS-Skyhook relationship is in full operation, such location information will be available in those metropolitan areas covered by Skyhook, provided the PSAP is set up to receive it.

Lorello noted that some 911 services have not yet been fully updated to receive E911 information.

"The problem with VOIP location is a challenging one," Lorello said. "VOIP phones dont have triangulation or GPS chips available."

He said that the best solution now is to require registration for VOIP phones, which the FCC will require. That, unfortunately, doesnt work with wireless VOIP phones.

"Under Skyhook you can map it to an X-Y coordinate," he said, "now we have a method to get location."

While Skyhooks coverage is fairly limited—only public hotspots in portions of the metropolitan areas served are actually covered—it is growing.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about the Wi-Fi industry from columnist Larry Loeb.

Lorello said he believes that majority of the U.S. population will be covered by the end of the year.

TCS provides E911 services including location services to the wireless phone industry, and already has the ability to provide location services for callers using either GPS-enabled phones or through triangulation.

Unfortunately, the rest of the industry still has some catching up to do.

Last week, major carriers petitioned the FCC to extend or eliminate the year-end deadline to provide E911 services.

According to a Reuters story last week, carriers are complaining that users havent been upgrading their handsets to those with GPS chips as fast as had been expected, and that PSAPs arent upgrading their operations quickly enough.

Phone carriers using GSM technology, including T-Mobile and Cingular, arent covered by the deadline because they used a different means of location.

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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...