Nº 4 2013 > WSIS Forum 2013 - Success stories from partners
Poland's system for locating emergency calls and facilitating number portability
By Magdalena Gaj, President of Poland's Office of Electronic Communications
Poland’s telecommunications regulatory authority — the Office of Electronic Communications (Urząd Komunikacji Elektronicznej) — has set up a platform that both adds value to the country’s emergency call system and supports number portability. This is the Location and Information Platform with a Central Database (Platforma Lokalizacyjno Informacyjna — Centralna Baza Danych), established as part of the nationwide information technology system for emergency reporting.
The platform was developed by the Office of Electronic Communications to improve the system for collecting information about the location of a customer calling an emergency telephone number, as well as to streamline processes related to number portability.
Emergency location service
Emergency helpline systems save human lives, and the European Union (including Poland) has introduced 112 as a common number that enables callers to contact local emergency services for assistance.
Poland’s Location and Information Platform with a Central Database includes a database of users of public telephone networks and provides a well-organized system for informing the relevant emergency services of the location of the telephone network terminal (fixed-line or mobile) from which an emergency call is made.
In the case of fixed-line, the system provides the address of the installed network termination point (a telephone). If the call is made from a mobile telephone, the system provides the geographical coordinates of the terminal device. In that case, the accuracy of the location data depends on the location system offered by the operator of the mobile network.
When a caller dials the emergency number, the call is transmitted through the public telephone network to the Voivodeship Emergency Notification Centre or to the closest competent unit of the rescue services. The telephone number of the customer calling for help is displayed at the emergency centre or unit and — for calls from fixed-line telephones — the emergency centre or unit can request data on the caller’s location to be forwarded from the platform’s database.
When an emergency number is dialled from a mobile telephone, the network of the mobile operator initiates the process of locating the caller. Once the caller’s location is established, that information — along with the caller’s telephone number — is sent by the mobile operator to the platform. Further information (previously collected and held in the platform’s database) about the caller is added to the location and telephone number, and the package of information is then forwarded to the relevant rescue services.
When human life is at stake, every second is important. Immediate identification of the location from which an emergency call is made is of great significance, in particular when the caller is in a serious condition or in shock and cannot define his or her location with sufficient accuracy. It is also important for the safety of tourists who may not know an area well enough to provide a precise description of their location.
The Location and Information Platform with a Central Database shortens the response time of the rescue services. The platform is capable of supporting up to 15 000 emergency calls within one minute and up to 40 million calls within one month.
Mobile network operators convey location data to the platform in about three to five seconds, and the platform receives and processes around four emergency incident alerts per second.
In a competitive telecommunication environment, number portability is a key facilitator of consumer choice. Whether for mobile or fixed communications, it is important for telephone users to be able to retain their telephone numbers when changing from one service provider to another.
The Location and Information Platform with a Central Database benefits telecommunication businesses by offering a technical base for processes related to number portability. The platform is capable of supporting up to 200 000 porting processes within 24 hours and up to 4.5 million porting processes within one month.
Structure of the platform
The Location and Information Platform with a Central Database consists of two data processing centres, located in Borucza near Warsaw and Siemianowice Śląskie, which work continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including public holidays.
On average, the databases in these two data processing centres receive around 4 million notifications on location each month. This information is provided by telecommunication businesses. All telecommunication businesses with more than 1 million customers have a dedicated connection with the platform, while other operators connect securely via the Internet.
At the other end of the system, there are the emergency rescue services, connected through a central point for emergency alerts or via the Internet.
Work on the original Location and Information Platform with a Central Database was completed on 31 March 2011 and the Office of Electronic Communications is now undertaking a follow-up project to improve the platform.
A useful model
Besides its importance for the safety of citizens, the platform has enhanced the operations of telecommunication businesses by offering a technical basis for the implementation of processes related to number portability.
The platform was established as an interoperable solution, based on national and international standards. This approach, together with an open user interface, guarantees full functionality and allows emergency services and telecommunication operators to connect to the system without any unnecessary costs.
Poland’s Location and Information Platform with a Central Database is a model that could be replicated by other interested countries.