FCC Expands Z-Axis Vertical Location Accuracy Requirements To All CMRS Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) has released its Sixth Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration (“Order”), in which it has expanded the current vertical location accuracy requirements[2] using a z-axis metric or dispatchable location for Enhanced 911 (“E911”) calls to all Commercial Mobile Radio Service (“CMRS”) providers. Specifically, CMRS providers that deploy z-axis technology must provide z-axis information within three meters above or below the handset for 80% of wireless E911 calls made from a z-axis capable device (“80% Rule”), deliver information in Height Above Ellipsoid, and provide floor level information where available. Below is a brief summary of the new requirements the Order adopts on wireless E911 vertical location accuracy.

Expansion of Vertical Location Accuracy Requirements: In the Order, the FCC requires that all nationwide CMRS providers must deploy z-axis technology or dispatchable location on a nationwide basis by April 3, 2025, and all non-nationwide CMRS providers must be able to provide a z-axis or dispatchable location throughout their service area by April 3, 2026. Pursuant to Section 506 of Ray Baum’s Act, as of January 6, 2022, all CMRS providers must provide dispatchable location with wireless E911 calls if technically feasible to do so.

Requirements for Z-Axis Technology: The Order allows CMRS providers deploying z-axis technology to have two options to meet the 80% Rule: (1) deploy the technology to cover 80% of the population or 80% of the buildings that exceed three stories in the CMAs, or (2) deploy z-axis capable handsets enabled with z-axis technology on a nationwide basis or throughout the provider’s network footprint, as applicable. In addition, CMRS providers deploying z-axis technology must activate and deploy all infrastructure to support z-axis location by z-axis capable devices throughout the deployment area. There are a number of specific rules pertaining to the means and requirements for deploying z-axis technology on handsets.

Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements: CMRS providers are now required to record live 911 call data, including positioning method and vertical confidence and uncertainty data using a confidence level of 90%, and retain such information for two years. CMRS providers must also make this information available to Public Safety Answering Points upon request.

Testing and Certification Requirements: CMRS providers must certify compliance with the vertical location accuracy requirements within 60 days of meeting each benchmark, including information on the extent to which z-axis capable handsets are deployed on carrier networks. Certifications must be based on: (1) testing a representative sample of handsets; (2) testing of representative indoor environments (dense urban, urban, suburban, and rural morphologies); (3) testing for location accuracy (ground truth), latency, and reliability (yield); and (4) testing that evaluates each call as independent from prior calls and as based on the first location delivered after the call is initiated.

Privacy and Security Requirements: The Order requires that CMRS providers must certify that neither they nor any third party they rely on to obtain z-axis information will use that information for any non-911 purpose, except with prior express consent or as required by law. They must also certify that they and any third parties relied upon, have implemented measures sufficient to safeguard the privacy and security of z-axis location information.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss these new vertical location accuracy requirements, please contact Robin Tuttle at rtuttle@hermanwhiteaker.com or Hilary Rosenthal at hrosenthal@hermanwhiteaker.com.