When people, from home users to small business owners, started transitioning to the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connections for their telephony needs, many were very vocal about the savings that switching over to VoIP had given them, as well as its other advantages. However, one of the lesser things that were heard about this service was one of its shortcomings; it’s the VoIP system’s inability to handle emergency calls, such as 911.
Compared to the traditional phone line, a VoIP connection is not immediately capable of providing the physical location of the caller. This is because a fixed line phone’s number already represents a physical location where the phone is connected to the telephone company’s exchange. Hence, if an emergency call comes from that phone, the physical location of it is already known.
On the other hand, IP addresses are often dynamically assigned. This means that a call, placed by a certain VoIP phone has a lot of possibilities with regard to their location. The IP address and physical location are not as set in stone as the fixed line counterpart, so the address itself reveals no useful information for the emergency services.
Recently however, progress had been reported concerning this issue. In the panel discussion at a conference sponsored by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), people are reporting that many measures are being taken in order to provide a similar function. While not exactly fool proof, plenty of VoIP companies are offering enhanced 911 (e911) for their consumers.
E911 is a system which automatically supplies emergency call operators with the caller’s geographical location and callback phone number. With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decreeing that companies who over VoIP must provide such a service, people can now be more assured that they wouldn’t fall behind when it comes to emergency services, unless of course you’re mobile and using a softphone that resides in your laptop.