Hosted PBX services have been around for a while now and have become increasingly popular with the SMB market in particular, using multi-tenant voice switching platforms from vendors such as BroadSoft. When it comes to E911, the Hosted PBX provider’s requirements are often straightforward:
- Meet State E911 regulations that apply to MLTS operators, which require that location information delivered to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) be specified to a finer level of granularity than just the customer’s civic address, e.g. to a floor or sub-divided section of areas greater than 40,000sq.ft.
- Provide emergency calling support inside of and beyond their standard coverage footprint area
- Automatically validate and provision customer records to ensure locations are civic-valid and properly formatted to display at the PSAP
Hosted PBX providers have usually been able to meet their E911 requirements with a solution that allows them to assign customer Emergency Response Locations (ERLs) to DIDs. This solution is feasible if the end customer is a small organization with few sites, little to no moves, adds, and changes, and little to no requirements for security notification.
Today, another hosted communications offering is growing in popularity: Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). UCaaS is a single-tenant hosted UC solution that is increasingly being adopted by medium to large enterprises that are making the strategic decision to move more than just their voice services to the cloud. UCaaS providers face the same E911 challenges as Hosted PBX providers, but also must contend with a number of additional E911 issues given the complexity of their offering.
In addition to the challenges of meeting E911 legislation, providing support within and beyond their coverage footprint, and automating location validation and provisioning, UCaaS providers must address several additional E911 challenges:
- Larger enterprises will be more inclined to move to a UCaaS solution if it supports the IP phones they already have and/or the UC capabilities they are comfortable with – this often means offering a hosted version of the PBX type they already have (e.g. Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution, Avaya Collaborative Cloud, Microsoft Lync, etc.). UCaaS providers offering more than one PBX vendor’s hosted solution increase their addressable market. However, this makes it essential that they find an E911 solution which supports the various capabilities of the multi-vendor UCaaS platforms they offer, or they risk having to implement and manage multiple piecemeal E911 solutions.
- Larger enterprises considering UCaaS expect the same UC features and functionalities as they would receive from an on-premises solution – and this expectation extends to E911. UCaaS providers must be able to provide automatic phone location discovery and tracking of customer IP phones, as well as the on-site security emergency call monitoring, recording, notification and misdial protection features supported by leading on-premises E911 solutions. It is important that UCaaS providers offer comparable E911 functionality to on-premises solutions, as missing these features can serve as a barrier to organizations moving to UCaaS solutions.
- UCaaS solution vendors are developing license models which fit the hosted service provider model, as well as usage trends where soft clients can be secondary or principle voice devices. Any E911 solution should support flexible licensing to match different vendor and/or usage models, as well as shared licensing across all UCaaS platforms and customers.
Whether offering hosted PBX or UCaaS, service providers need to assess their E911 liability and required functionality according to their target customer base, and match this with an appropriate E911 solution to lower their costs and remove potential barriers to customer acquisition.
Supporting hosted voice services can be a daunting undertaking – don’t get caught out by E911! To learn more about E911 for hosted PBX and UCaaS, please attend the “E911 for Hosted IP-PBX Providers” panel session at ITEXPO West on Wednesday, October 3, or contact me directly at email@example.com.