Government Technology

Why Cell Phone Tower Locations Need Rechecking



Cell Phone Towers Could Help

July 25, 2011 By

York County, Pa., plans to verify the locations of more than 200 cell phone towers to ensure that 911 calls placed from mobile devices are accurately tracked.

Communications Director Carl Lindquist said the county depends on the locations as they’re provided by cell phone companies. Calls from older mobile phones that don’t have built-in GPS must be triangulated from the location of cell towers in order to determine where a caller dialing 911 is. The caller’s location is estimated based on where the call signal is pinging off a tower.

“When we go to try and trace that call, if we’ve got bad information, it negatively impairs us to figure out where you are,” said Lindquist, “because our computer records are going to show you’re within 300 meters of this area, when really because the tower is in a different location, you’re actually 300 meters [from a different location].”


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Paul Sachs    |    Commented August 8, 2011

Ottawa County Michigan completed a comprehensive tower inventory in 2007 and an update in 2009 for the cost of only a few hours of staff time. GPS coordinates of tower site locations were obtained using the FCC's online tower antenna registration database. To identify the locations of 'unregistered towers' local government officials were contacted to provide a listing of all towers in their respective community. These data were then verified using aerial photos available through the County's GIS system. The comprehensive (and cost-effective) inventory is available for view and download from the County's website (www.miottawa.org).


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