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Satellite Solutions for Emergency Communications

What’s Your Plan for 911 Services?

As satellite communications gain significant momentum, companies are aggressively planning how emergency services will be handled. From device/chip manufacturers to wireless carriers partnered with satellite providers, incorporating the ability to reach emergency services anywhere and anytime is a critical value proposition. This will become an important factor when consumers are considering various services.

Regulations Around 911 Connectivity for Satellite Services

While the FCC regulations have not played a large role in the future of satellite to cellular connectivity, this is changing in 2023 as the regulatory framework proposed in February will be considered in March. It is strongly believed satellite services will be a specific focus of the FCC this year and that it will have a significant impact on satellite providers, device manufacturers, chip manufacturers, and cellular service providers. 

Texting to 911 Over Satellite

Texting as a form of communication when using satellites for connectivity is on the rise. This makes sense as a first step in extending coverage through satellite as texting performs better when continuous coverage is not available since temporary gaps still exist in satellite availability. However, this can be problematic as approximately a third of PSAPs are not yet text-enabled.

Typical behavior for a PSAP that is not text-enabled is to send a bounce back message advising the person that they must call 911. This can be catastrophic when connected through satellite, especially if they are on a text-only device or someone is out of voice service range. In these scenarios, they will not be able to reach emergency services in their time of need.

Dedicated Satellite Devices

Dedicated satellite devices unsurprisingly provide the best satellite connectivity; however, they do not typically route directly to a PSAP. Rather, they may send an SOS message to their own call center to manage that traffic and then reach out to the appropriate emergency services. Aside from the expense this adds, it also may insert unnecessary and problematic delays in connecting first responders to the person in need of emergency services.

Intrado Solutions for Satellite Providers

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With extensive experience in the 911 space, Intrado’s infrastructure is built to deliver fast and accurate connectivity direct to emergency services. When provided with a geolocation, Intrado routes calls or texts to the jurisdictionally appropriate PSAP. If the PSAP is not text-enabled or if geolocation data is absent, requests for assistance (RFAs) are routed to Intrado’s Emergency Call Relay Center (ECRC).

A highly trained team of APCO certified telecommunicators receive these RFAs, gather details, and then pass the communication stream along to the appropriate PSAP. The process, combined with Intrado’s expertise, ensures providers can be confident that every customer using satellite connectivity is able to reach emergency services.

What Does the Future Hold?

Remarkable success stories have emerged with the integration of cellular and wireless service. Near the end of 2022, we heard about the rescue of a stranded snowmobiler in a remote Alaska location using GPS coordinates. And a crash detection alert combined with SOS connectivity through satellite was able to find and save a couple whose vehicle fell into a California canyon. As FCC regulations enter the space, consumers’ and regulators’ focus on these important issues will increase.

Planning on how to efficiently manage emergency traffic will be critical from a competitive and regulatory perspective. Intrado has the expertise, infrastructure, and solutions already in place to ensure more successful outcomes in emergency scenarios.

For more information, read our new whitepaper, Readying Low Earth Orbit Satellite Services for Emergency Communications.

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