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999 comes to VoIP

Emergency calls are go, barring break-ups

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Ofcom, the UK regulator, has decreed that VoIP services are going to have to connect 999 calls to the emergency services, though not until September 2008.

VoIP services have been improving in quality and usability to the point where many are indistinguishable from the traditional phone service, depending on the bandwidth available, and Ofcom reckons that's confusing punters who expect to be able to dial 999 (or 112, the EU-wide emergency number) from any normal handset.

Last time Ofcom looked at the issue, just over a year ago, 36 per cent of UK households with a VoIP service couldn't access the emergency services, though most of them were unaware of it.

Since then adoption of VoIP has doubled to ten per cent of UK homes.

Not every VoIP provider will be affected by this - services which offer a "Click To Call" button on websites won't be required to offer 999, but any service which allows the user to call normal landlines will have to link to the emergency services.

So anything that looks like a normal phone should be able to dial the emergency services by September 8, 2008. Just make sure you're not downloading the latest bitTorrent when you need to make that call. ®

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