Enhanced 999 facility for mobile phones

15 January 2004

Ofcom today welcomed work carried out by the UK's telecommunications sector in developing technology that will help the emergency services to locate people calling 999 from their mobile phones.

Enhanced location information will mean that callers in unfamiliar surroundings can be located and reached more speedily by the Fire, Police, Ambulance or Coastguard services.

The system has been developed by the UK's mobile operators - O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and 3 - and by BT and Cable & Wireless, the companies that connect 999 calls dialled from mobile phones to the emergency services.

The initiative was directed by Oftel, the previous telecommunications regulator whose responsibilities have now been assumed by Ofcom.

Peter Walker, Senior Adviser for Ofcom’s Technology Strategy group, said, "Ofcom welcomes this joint initiative by the telecommunications sector. More than 43 million 999 calls are made each year and more than 50 per cent of those are from mobile handsets. The enhanced service represents a major step forward in helping the emergency services to respond to calls from mobile users as speedily as possible."

The capabilities of the new system were today being demonstrated to representatives of the emergency services in London.

The system has been developed because mobile users are not always able to readily identify the place from which they are making an emergency call, particularly when phoning from a vehicle to report an incident on a motorway or other road system.

The new system will allow approximate locations to be identified by control rooms as calls are connected. It will also help in the identification of hoax callers.

Fixed line callers already benefit from the facility. A previous study of location information on fixed line calls showed that, on average, 30 seconds could be saved in the despatch of emergency vehicles for each call.

The enhanced system would also apply to the European Emergency Number, 112.

Notes to Editors:

1. The new service is in line with the EC Directive that includes the requirement to make location information available for all emergency calls (Directive 2002/22/EC). The implementation maintains the UK's lead in Europe with regard to the emergency telephone service. The specification developed in the UK for supporting the communication of the location data has been adopted by ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute).

2. Ofcom is the regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

Ofcom exists to further the interests of citizen-consumers as the communications industries enter the digital age.

Our duties include:

  • The promotion of choice, quality and value in electronic communications services, where appropriate by encouraging competition between the providers of those services
  • Ensuring the most efficient use of the radiocommunications spectrum - the airwaves used for the transmission of all non-military wireless communications services
  • Ensuring a wide range of electronic communications services, including broadband, is available across the UK
  • Ensuring a wide range of TV and radio programmes of high quality and wide appeal
  • Maintaining plurality in the media by ensuring a sufficiently broad range of ownership
  • The protection of audiences against offensive or harmful material, unfairness or the infringement of privacy on TV and radio

Ofcom has taken over the responsibilities and has assumed the powers of the five former regulators it has replaced - the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Independent Television Commission, Oftel, the Radio Authority and the Radiocommunications Agency. An independent regulatory body, Ofcom will fulfil the additional duties enacted in the provisions laid down in the Communications Act 2003.

Contact

Ofcom Media Office
mediaoffice@ofcom.org.uk
(+44) (0) 20 7981 3033