Wireless Industry Wants FCC to Adopt Z-Axis Metric

CTIA and national wireless carriers want the FCC to adopt a z-axis, or vertical, 911 indoor location accuracy standard in the near term rather than waiting for additional testing, as the industry had previously suggested, a CTIA representative told the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council during a quarterly meeting of the federation held today.

Public safety entities have expressed their opposition to a z-axis standard proposed last August by the four nationwide wireless carriers, saying that more precise accuracy is crucial and possible.

For its part, CTIA had said the Commission should not adopt the standard and should instead allow the industry to conduct further testing (TR Daily, Oct. 1, 2018).  Verizon Communications, Inc., told the FCC that it would be “premature” for the agency to adopt the z-axis standard proposed by the carriers, saying that additional time would allow “further testing on alternative Z-axis solutions that would improve on Z-axis accuracy” (TR Daily, Sept. 28, 2018).

In the industry proposal, which was submitted by an FCC-mandated deadline that was set in a 2015 order (TR Daily, Jan. 29, 2015), the carriers recommended a z-axis metric “of +/- 5 meters for 80% of fixes from mobile devices capable of delivering barometric pressure sensor-based altitude estimates” (TR Daily, Aug. 7, 2018).

The industry proposal was included in a cover letter to a report on the results of indoor location accuracy testing conducted by a test bed established by CTIA on behalf of the industry. The report recommended additional testing.

But NPSTC and other public safety entities have said the industry proposal falls short and that a more precise z-axis metric should be adopted by the FCC. Public safety entities have called for floor-level accuracy, and no more than +/- 3 meters.

During a presentation at today’s NPSTC meeting, which was held via teleconference, Matt Gerst, assistant vice president-regulatory affairs for CTIA, said, “Public safety wants a more aggressive metric. We understand that. The industry wants certainty as to what that metric will be.”

He said that CTIA and representatives from the four national carriers met with FCC officials last month “and told the FCC that we thought it was time for them to move in the near term to adopt a metric that would help advance the development process for z-axis technology.”

“We still want to see solutions demonstrate the ability to consistently deliver results, but we’re open to the FCC moving forward on a metric soon to make sure that everybody has the certainty as to, you know, what exactly we are striving for,” Mr. Gerst added.  He also said that improvements in location accuracy have already been seen and additional ones are expected in the near future.

Mr. Gerst said the carriers proposed the +/- 5 meter standard due to challenges in replicating a more precise standard in a live 911 calling environment with only two vendors that participated in the testing coordinated by CTIA.

In CTIA’s ex parte filing in PS docket 07-114 on last month’s meeting with FCC officials, the trade group said, “While further testing remains necessary to validate the accuracy of vertical location technology solutions across regions, morphologies, weather conditions and devices, the participants noted that certainty as to the Z-Axis metric in the near term, whether via an Order or expeditiously seeking public comment, may help advance the development process necessary to meet the 2021 and 2023 vertical location accuracy benchmarks in the Fourth Report & Order. As previously noted in the record, the participants expect that new and emerging vertical location technologies including, for example, 3D WiFi, could support a more accurate Z-Axis metric and may be scalable to meet the benchmarks. To that end, the participants encouraged the Commission to ensure that the adopted Z-Axis metric is technologically neutral, consistent with the approach the Commission has typically taken. Further, the participants noted that the Test Bed LLC is evaluating whether additional Z-Axis testing can be accelerated in 2019 as wireless providers will need to validate whether a technology solution can achieve the metric consistent with Fourth Report & Order.”

During today’s CTIA presentation, Mr. Gerst also noted that CTIA announced last September that all four nationwide wireless carriers planned to deploy device-based hybrid (DBH) location technology solutions by the end of 2018, although some have deployed the technology for years (TR Daily, Sept. 5, 2018). “That announcement was met with general support,” said Mr. Gerst. He added that CTIA and its member companies believe that innovation in this space is healthy and welcome other announcements on device-based solutions.

One question that has been raised about DBH location technology is whether it will be effective in power outages.

In response to that question at today’s meeting, John Marinho, CTIA’s vice president-cybersecurity and technology, said that various solutions “are all layered on top of each other” and thus others would still work in power outages. He also said devices could retain information they had received from Wi-Fi or Bluetooth access points before power went out or was turned off for safety purposes. He said the industry has not conducted testing on the impact of power outages on DBH solutions.

Mr. Gerst also said the industry has made progress by adding more than 17 million reference points to the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD). But he said about 30 million reference points are needed for the industry to meet the FCC’s 2021 deadline to deliver information from the NEAD and provide dispatchable locations in the top 25 markets.

Also at today’s meeting, the NPSTC Governing Board appointed Kevin McGinnis, a former member of the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) board, the chair of the NPSTC EMS working group. He replaces Paul Patrick, a new member of the FirstNet board. The NPSTC board also closed its UAS robotics working group and moved its video technology advisory group to a monitoring status. The next NPSTC meeting is expected to be held in May. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily