Voip services provide 999 call accessVoip users can now access 999 and 112

18 September 2008

A woman using VOIP at a laptop

Make calls using your computer with a PC headset

All Voip services that enable users to call regular phone numbers must also now offer emergency 999 and 112 access, thanks to new rules imposed by telecoms industry regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom wants to ensure users of mainstream Voip services such as Skype and Vonage are not put in danger as a result of trying to call 999 or 112 using a service that does not allow access.

Emergency calls with Voip

The new rules apply to all Voip out services that allow users to make calls to normal phone numbers but not receive them along with two-way Voip providers enabling users to make and receive calls both to and from normal phone numbers.

Voip services that only offer calls over the internet to other computers, such as Windows Live Messenger, and services that only allow users to receive calls from normal phone numbers are unaffected by the new rules and do not have to offer emergency services access.

Voip Caller location

Callers using Voip cannot be traced as quickly and accurately by emergency services operators as those ringing with mobile and regular PTSN phone lines.

To ensure they can be located in the case of an emergency, Voip users need to register their phone number and address with the Emergency Services database through their Voip provider and remember to update personal details if they move home or office.

The rules follow an Ofcom survey that revealed 78% of Voip (Voice over internet protocol) users who cannot use their service to call 999 or 112 either believed an emergency call was possible, or did not know whether or not they could.

Voip limitations

Welcoming the new rules, Which? technology editor Matthew Bath said, 'Ofcom’s ruling is a step in the right direction but Voip users should remember that emergency calls may still fail if there’s a power cut or your broadband connection fails.

It’s safest to have a second means of contacting the emergency services such as a mobile phone or traditional landline service to back up your Voip service.'