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Location software answers call for E911

U.K.-based Cambridge Positioning System unveils software that could be used by U.S. cellular carriers to meet a federal mandate for locating cell phones that make emergency calls.

United Kingdom-based Cambridge Positioning System has introduced a new version of its location software that could be used by U.S. cellular carriers to meet a federal mandate for locating cell phones.

The company's Cursor Matrix product, available now, is for Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) carriers, said CPS spokesman Colin Ashcroft. About 80 percent of the world's phone networks use the GSM cell phone standard.

T-Mobile USA, a GSM carrier, is now trialing the Cursor Matrix software, said Ashcroft. Fellow U.S. carriers AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless, which also use GSM networks, haven't decided yet whether to try the software, company representatives said Thursday.

All U.S. carriers have until 2005 to make it possible to for emergency call centers to pinpoint the location of a cell phone that has been used to dial 911. That's currently possible only for landline phones. The task has proven much more difficult than the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imagined in 1996 when it crafted the mandate. For instance, every U.S. carrier missed an Oct. 1, 2001, deadline to begin installing the equipment in their networks.

AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless used an earlier version of CPS software, Enhanced Observed Time Difference (EOTD), to meet the so-called E911, or Enhanced 911, mandate. Both have since switched to another technology.

The two carriers said the CPS technology wasn't accurate enough to meet the FCC's requirements. T-Mobile USA disagrees, saying recent tests of the technology show it can hit the stringent guidelines, according to a company statement.

"We've had our challenges in the U.S. market, but there's a big GSM market for us worldwide," Ashcroft said. "We're encouraged as to what we see in other parts of the world."