Public safety answering points (PSAPs) are moving to implement Next-Generation 911 systems, which are IP-based, so that they can accept more digital information, from text messages to video chat and even information such as building plans. 

In a recent Frost & Sullian report on the state of NG911, the firm concluded that “there are several core benefits of NG911” and summarized the technology as enabling “enhanced network capacity and performance from the replacement of circuit-switched networks to IP networks,” as well as the benefits of standards-based interconnection for PSAPs and other agencies, so that resources, information and even costs can be shared for applications such as computer-aided dispatch, records management systems, customer premise equipment records systems and others. NG911, the analyst firm said, “introduces an array of innovative features and functionality that will significantly expand public safety capabilities and allow end users to efficiently relay text, data, video and IP-based voice calls in emergency situations.” Being IP-based, NG911 systems would also allow 911 calls to be re-routed in the event of an emergency with high volumes, or when circumstances such as power outages in a disaster impact a PSAP.

Frost & Sullivan said that large integrators’ interest in the market has accelerated progress and reduced the complexity of the transition to NG911, which is called “a critical step in the journey towards digital transformation” in the public safety space.

As this transition takes place, some of the recent developments include:

-The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration submitted a report to Congress last October with estimates of the cost of NG911 deployment and operations. The agencies estimated NG911 deployment costs at between $9.5 billion to $12.7 billion for deployment, and lifecycle cost estimate — including operational costs and equipment refreshes — in the range of $13.5 billion to $16 billion. Those costs will be spread between local, state and federal agencies. NTIA and NHTSA estimated that the transition to NG911 will take about about a decade — under the rosy circumstances of there being no delays in funding, scheduling or deviations from the recommended implementation path.

That NG911 cost estimate report was intended to help Congress decide whether to put together a long-term funding mechanism for NG911. The report also found that in terms of current implementation efforts, states are working on an incremental basis toward NG911. Only 20 states reported having adopted a statewide NG911 plan, although 18 reported that they have moved forward with some level of statewide implementation and testing. However, the report concluded, “there are no states in the end state of NG911 implementation.”

-The federal government is accepting grant applications through April 2 for $110 million in funding to help with NG911 upgrades. More information here. Those grants are the result of the NG911 Advancement Act (legislation enacted in 2012), which funded grants for 911 and enhanced 911 services as well as migration to an IP-enabled emergency network and NG911 adoption of services and applications — activities that could include establishing an IP network backbone or application software infrastructure for interconnection, or personnel training. 

-The states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota have been contributing to a series of NG911 “playbook” reports based on lessons-learned and best practices that they have accumulated as they’ve been working to interconnect their emergency communications systems since 2016. The second chapter of their playbook was released last summer and focused on what NG911 is — and what it isn’t; standards to consult for transition planning; lessons learned on voice and text-to-911 call-sharing with states that use different providers; the use of geographic information system data in NG911; and interim text-to-911 test scenarios. Chapters one and two of the states’ NG911 playbook are available here.

There is movement in the private sector in support of public safety technology in general and NG911 specifically, from venture funding to acquisitions. VDC Research recently said in a blog post that acquisitions by Motorola Solutions demonstrate “confidence that public safety and first responder organizations intend to spend big on technology upgrades in the near future – it is a market poised for growth.” A couple of noteworthy NG911-related developments include:

-RapidSOS, which provides a data clearinghouse for NG911 implementations and improved location data for mobile 911 callers, raised $30 million in a Series B funding round last November, which will enable the company to expand its technology platform.  That funding round, led by Playground Global, included participation from M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund),Highland Capital Partners, Two Sigma Ventures, Forte Ventures, The Westly Group, CSAA IG and, according to RapidSOS, “notable individuals including three former FCC Chairmen and Ralph de la Vega – former AT&T Vice Chairman and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions.” The company said it had raised $65 million to date.

-Last month, Comtech Telecommunications completed its acquisition of NG911 provider Solacom Technologies for $33 million. In a statement on the acquisition, Comtech President and CEO Fred Kornberg said that safety and security markets are “at growth inflection points” and that the acquisition “is a significant step in our strategy of enhancing our solutions offerings, particularly with respect to NG911 capabilities.”

Looking for more information on advances in public safety communications? Check out RCR’s recent editorial special report and webinar.

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