FCC rejects calls to delay indoor location accuracy improvements

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Carriers won’t get more time to meet vertical location, or z-axis, accuracy requirements for cellular devices that are set to take effect in April.

The Federal Communications has rejected requests from CTIA and the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) to delay the implementation of new requirements on improved accuracy for reporting the indoor location of wireless callers, including three-meter accuracy of a device’s vertical position within multi-story buildings.

CTIA and APCO had asked the FCC last September to delay the April 2021 deadline by which wireless network providers have to start providing more precise indoor location of callers in certain markets. CTIA cited the COVID-19 pandemic as one reason that the FCC should give operators more time, arguing that the pandemic “has stalled any ability to validate whether z-axis location solutions can meet the Commission’s vertical location accuracy requirements” and also saying that the FCC’s timeline was “premised on vendor promises that ‘have not panned out.’” APCO, meanwhile, took issue with the “dispatchable location” part of the FCC’s requirements, and repeated a request that the FCC tie its required benchmark to a percentage of 911 calls rather than address-reference points in a location database.

The FCC essentially said that the carriers have known for six year that they would have to meet these deadlines, the requests re-argued points that it had already considered and dismissed, and that the April 2021 and 2023 z-axis deadlines would stand.

The FCC had adopted rules in 2015 that commercial wireless carriers would have to provide vertical location, or z-axis, information in the top 25 Cellular Market Areas by April 3, 2021, and in the top 50 CMAs by April 3, 2023. However, the FCC didn’t adopt the exact metric for the information — that the information must be accurate to within three meters of the device’s position — until November 2019. In November 2019, the FCC noted, it found that two vendors, NextNav and Polaris, had “consistently shown in testing that their solutions, which rely on barometric pressure sensors in handsets,
could meet or surpass this standard” and that “devices capable of measuring and reporting vertical location without a hardware upgrade (z-axis capable devices) were widely available.”

In a July 2020 action, the commission expanded the options for carriers to meet the deadlines: Instead of deploying z-axis technology to cover 80% of the population, they meet the deadlines by deploying z-axis technology to cover 80% of the buildings that exceeded three stories within the cellular market. The national carriers had asked instead that the FCC only require them to meet the three-meter accuracy standard for 50% of calls rather than 80%, and to move the 2023 deadline to 2025. The FCC did not change its deadline then, and repeated again this week that it will not.

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