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Prepaid phones not yet totally 911-reliable

A big issue these days is for phones to be e911 compatible. The FCC has mandated that all carriers be in 100 percent compliance by September 11, 2011, invoking a national tragedy to make their point. It does make sense in a symbolic way, though, as the idea behind full compliance is that all cell phones can be tracked and found by first responders. It still looks like about 25 percent of phones still aren’t compliant. There’s still over two years until the date, though, so presumably it will be done by then.

The article goes on to detail how some carriers deal with their positioning technology:

In a best-case scenario, police can pinpoint a cell phone caller within a few dozen yards in a matter of seconds. The caller’s latitude and longitude coordinates pop up on an operator’s computer screen. This happens primarily with newer phones equipped with GPS chips. Generally, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and Alltel use this method with their newest phones.

Other service providers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile, use a triangulation method among several cell phone towers to locate callers. Each method has drawbacks: GPS doesn’t work well inside buildings; triangulation does better inside, but tends to be less accurate.

And then the author goes on to detail some successes and some failings with e911 responses. It’s definitely a developing technology, and hopefully over the next few years we can get it to a greater capacity. After all, this is one of the most important things a call phone can do: help you in an emergency.