Sprint offers GPS-enabled cell phones.

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Sprint offers GPS-enabled cell phones.

By Reuters

September 30, 2001, 2:30 p.m. PT

WASHINGTON--Sprint PCS on Monday will begin selling mobile telephones equipped to more precisely pinpoint a caller's location when 911 is dialed for help, although service will not be available until November and then only in one market.

Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest mobile telephone carrier, said it plans to launch the service in Rhode Island next month and expand to other areas in coordination public safety agencies.

Oct. 1 is the deadline for U.S. wireless companies to begin offering improved location capability on their networks, but most companies have asked federal regulators to delay implementation because of troubles they said they have had obtaining the necessary technology and handsets in time.
Sprint will sell the SPH-N300, a mobile telephone manufactured by Samsung Electronics, for $149.99, that is equipped with global positioning system (GPS) location functionality.

"The launch of the SPH-N300 makes Sprint the first and only carrier to meet the FCC handset deadline (Sunday) and puts us at a clear advantage for offering GPS-enhanced services in the future," said John Garcia, senior vice president of sales and distribution for Sprint.

When 911 emergency calls are made from land lines, an address appears on an operator's screen. But about 140,000 calls to 911 come from mobile phones.

And in the past, callers from mobile phones dial for help must identify nearby landmarks or have wireless companies trace the call to the closest cell tower for an approximate location.

To address that problem, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules that require wireless companies to be able to locate 67 percent of callers to 911 within 50 meters that elect the handset solution while those using network technology must be able to locate the caller within 100 meters.

Carriers must ensure 25 percent of all new handsets activated are able to provide location information by Dec. 31 and 100 percent by the end of 2002.

But all of the major wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless, AT&T Wireless Services and others, have filed waivers with the FCC asking the agency to approve extended timetables for complying with the rules.

"I see the commission and carriers entering into implementation agreements," said Tom Wheeler, chief executive of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, the trade group for the wireless industry. "It is the starting line."

The agency is slated to rule on those requests in the coming days.

Sprint, also one of the companies seeking a waiver, said "factors beyond Sprint PCS' control have delayed the installation of the network infrastructure to support the GPS-enabled services in all Sprint PCS markets."

In addition to the location information for emergency situations, in the future customers will be able to opt for commercial services such as driving directions, traffic services and entertainment information, Sprint said.
 

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