Using SD-WAN to Build a Failsafe Network for 911 Emergency Services

For five hours on March 8, 2017, more than 12,000 callers couldn’t reach 911 from their mobile phones, according to the FCC. An AT&T network change caused an outage affecting the Southeast, central U.S., parts of the Northeast and other parts of the country. Click back to 2014, when a widespread 911 outage affected more than 11 million people across seven states. Every resident of Washington state lacked a fully functioning 911 service for up to six hours. Software was the problem.

Rising Complexity of Emergency Services

The migration to Next Generation 911 (NG911) is underway. With NG911, people can contact 911 via text or video messages from any device, as well as make calls the way they always have. Under NG911, the location of cellular callers will be more accurate. Callers can be pooled by the scene of the same emergency, which will aid rapid response. Other life-saving data such as notification systems, medical alerts or other sensors, can be sent to 911 call-takers in the call center as well as dispatchers and first-responders.

In addition, with NG911, call control can be distributed, which means a 911 outage can affect a greater number of public safety access points (PSAPs)—and people. As more regions and communities contract out 911 services, critical functions may be located farther from the PSAPs and the person in need, making network responsiveness and reliability even more critical.

The move to NG911 requires the migration to IP networks, rather than the traditional circuit-switched TDM networks that have been used for decades. 911 administrators need to evaluate strategies to increase network availability and resiliency as they move into an IP world.

Traditionally, PSAPs eliminate potential points of failure with network path diversity. But in a traditional routed network, failing over to the backup network can take seconds—and that delay certainly means the risk for dropped calls.

The network connecting PSAPs and operations centers must be available every second of the day. It must deliver constant, acceptable levels of capacity and coverage as well as availability during routine maintenance and upgrades.

Build a Failsafe WAN

911 emergency services demand a failsafe last-mile network—one that delivers high availability and reliable, predictable application performance. Talari engineers failsafe wide-area networks (WANs) better than anyone else.

A Talari software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) can deliver:

  • Continuous availability and predictable performance. A Talari SD-WAN adapts in real time to actual network conditions and demand for bandwidth, ensuring that at all times and regardless of network issues, critical applications have priority and that all applications take the best quality path through the network. Talari performs continuous unidirectional measurements of packet loss, latency, jitter and bandwidth utilization for all paths between any pair of locations. It makes forwarding decisions on a per-packet basis; Talari has a sub-second response to any network issues on that path.
  • Access all bandwidth across multiple links. PSAPs are typically linked by two or even three connections for redundancy, but only the primary network is active until a link failure occurs. With a Talari SD-WAN, all circuits are active so locations have access to the full aggregated amount of bandwidth, which means an increase in network capacity for no additional spending. Policy-based prioritization ensures that real-time, quality-sensitive applications like VoIP get the highest priority and are securely transmitted over the best possible network—whether that network is T1, MPLS, metro Ethernet, cloud or broadband. In fact, Talari SD-WAN can provide 90% to 97% sustained utilization on shared links without negatively impacting the application quality of experience.
  • Build the foundation for NG911. Only 13 states report having a fully operational NG911 system in which they are processing NG911 emergency calls for wireline, wireless and VoIP, according to the S. federal government. With a Talari SD-WAN, you can build a converged IP network that supports voice as well as new capabilities, while mitigating the risk of change.

Maricopa Region 911 (MR911) has avoided any major service disruption since it built a Talari SD-WAN more than five years ago to connect its 25 PSAPs and data centers in the Phoenix metropolitan area. In addition to improved WAN reliability, MR911 increased network capacity and lowered costs, and built a converged WAN that’s the foundation of a NG911 network. “The peace of mind and visibility we get with Talari is invaluable in terms of knowing we are going to deliver those calls without interruption,” says the systems administrator.

Learn More

Read the whitepaper on failsafe software-defined WANs.

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), Network Reliability

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