New ETSI standard supports multimedia emergency comms

Tuesday, 18 April, 2023

New ETSI standard supports multimedia emergency comms

Most emergency services today can only receive voice calls, despite the fact that there are so many more means of communication available to citizens in their daily lives. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has now released a revised version of the specification ETSI TS 103 479, which defines next-generation core services (NGCS) — services that allow citizens to utilise multimedia emergency communication (voice, photos, video, text) to contact the relevant emergency call centre.

Depending on different countries, there may be one or more emergency control centres, or public safety answering points (PSAPs). When there are several control centres, they are networked via packet switched infrastructure or, in standard terms, an emergency services IP network (ESInet) to provide reliable infrastructure for emergency communications and data sharing in real time. This should help to improve decision-making and response times during emergencies.

The revision also provides a technical basis for national packet switched infrastructure, giving access to emergency services communications to all citizens. Indeed, it includes the requirement to support Total Conversation (ie, voice, video and real-time text combined in a single conversation) and Real-Time Text which can, for instance, help hearing-impaired people.

“The recent publication is an essential foundation for European standardisation of emergency communication,” said Wolfgang KAMPICHLER, ETSI rapporteur of the specification. “It addresses the technical challenges of multimedia conversations coming from different networks and is thus an important contribution to offer access to emergency services for all. We are pleased to contribute to the continuous improvement of emergency services for all European citizens.”

Interoperability at an international level is also important. The ETSI technical committee EMTEL, which developed the specification, in coordination with the US National Emergency Number Association (NENA), has standardised the designation for namespaces in order to create the basis for a global standard.

ETSI TS 103 479 also includes a mechanism to update location data directly from the terminal even during an active emergency communication, allowing routing to the correct emergency control centre based on the location information. This mechanism makes it also possible to manage roaming situations, for instance when someone is abroad but connected remotely to their originating service provider (OSP). The latter applies in particular to VoIP or APP service providers.

The ETSI specification enables a standard-compliant integration of different networks with the next-generation core services of an ESInet. As the use of mobile communications is constantly increasing, compatibility with 3GPP VoLTE is especially important and allows the use of native communication functions of mobile devices in emergency situations.

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