Transitioning to a Broadband State of Mind




More bandwidth!  When using a computer, FAST is a great feeling.

I’ve met probably a half a dozen individuals who have transitioned away from traditional analog phone lines (CAMA Trunks) in their 911 Call Centers (Public Safety Answering Point- PSAP) and proudly speak about how much bandwidth they  now have with the new IP based system.

100Mbps to every PSAP!

I comment that they must have very large 911 centers. In my latest discussion with an individual who implemented 100 Mbps to all eleven of his PSAP’s, the answer was “there are ten 2 position centers and one with 4 positions.”

In the legacy world, a Manager with financial responsibility for a 2 position PSAP would never terminate 20 incoming 911 phone lines. Two people staffing that center could not handle 20 simultaneous 911 calls. Also, those 20 phone lines would fit nicely on a single T1 circuit, which is approximately 1.5 Mbps. There are formulas that have been established for years to size the required number of phone circuits into a 911 center .

There are also formulas for calculating how much bandwidth is needed for voice in the IP world- we’ve been doing this in the US for over 15 years. And this is the important factor- today as we move to IP in the world of 911, we are usually only handling voice. Text should also be calculated, but it is very minimal. Bandwidth is expensive.

What I am seeing today is a ‘practice’ where solutions are not being engineered. In the example of a PSAP that could easy have run on a 1.5Mbps T1 circuit in the legacy world and is now operating on a 100Mbps circuit, its similar to building a 1500 lane superhighway and trying to terminate it into a 2 car garage. With  voice and text, you will never use all of those lanes.

Let’s ballpark the cost- on the State of Florida contract the 2 Mbps local loop charge (the smallest available) is $155/month. A 100 Mbps local loop charge is $1,768- a $1,613 per month difference. $1,613 that maybe I did not need to spend. With a 36 month contract that’s $58,068 per PSAP. Include all ten 2 position PSAPs in the example above and we have $580,680 over 36 months – 911 funds wasted.

Walk into a PSAP, staff today are answering phone calls and dealing with text messages, not streaming NetFlix.

Every deployment is unique. The bottom line is make sure that your solution is engineered. Make the vendor/consultant look at your historical usage, make them show you the numbers and don’t fall for the ‘more bandwidth is better’ sales pitch.

Today, increasing the bandwidth on an IP circuit, if you need to do that in the future,  can often be performed by a simple software command. This should allow for increased bandwidth, as needed, as we introduce broadband based services into the PSAP ecosystem.