Telecom Commission Letter addressed to Mr. Stephen Schmidt (TELUS Communications Company)

Ottawa, 18 November 2016

Our reference: 8663-C12-201015470

BY EMAIL

Mr. Stephen Schmidt
Vice-President - Telecom Policy & Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel
Telecom Policy & Regulatory Affairs
TELUS Communications Company
215 Slater Street, Floor 8
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 0A6
regulatory.affairs@telus.com

RE: 9-1-1 calling using TELUS Extend service

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

In September 2016, Commission staff became aware that TELUS Communications Company (TELUS) has been offering a service called TELUS Extend. Commission staff issued a Request for Information on 28 September 2016 concerning this service, to which TELUS responded on 11 October 2016 (TELUS’ response).

TELUS Extend is a downloadable mobile application available to TELUS mobility customers to enable them to use their TELUS Mobility telephone number to make/receive calls or text messages over Wi-Fi. This service, launched in 2014, is available by invitation only to select customers with Android and iOS devices.

Based on TELUS’ response, when the TELUS Extend application is in use and the customer dials 9-1-1, the Android or iOS device’s native dialler will automatically launch and search for TELUS’ mobile wireless network, or any other mobile wireless network if TELUS’ mobile wireless network is unavailable. As long as a cellular network is available, the 9-1-1 call will be completed as a normal mobile 9-1-1 call that goes directly to a public safety answering point (PSAP). If no mobile wireless network is available, or the customer has turned off cellular access, the 9-1-1 call will not be completed, although the subscriber will be able to continue to make/receive other types of calls using Wi-Fi. Customers are notified in the license agreement, in the TELUS Extend tutorial, and the first time they log into the TELUS Extend app, that 9-1-1 calling is not available via the TELUS Extend application when only Wi-Fi is available.

TELUS submitted that TELUS Extend does not constitute a nomadic Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service but acts as a complement to a customer’s TELUS Mobility service, using the telephone number that has been assigned on the TELUS Mobility account. TELUS stated that when a TELUS mobile customer uses the TELUS Extend service over Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world to place a call to Canada or the United States (the only places where calls can be completed to), the customer is not charged for local or long distance voice minutes or outgoing SMS messages.

TELUS indicated that 9-1-1 call drops on TELUS Extend would only happen in an area of the country where TELUS mobility service is unavailable and there is no signal available from any other mobile wireless network. TELUS stated that this will be a very rare circumstance given the level of wireless coverage in Canada. TELUS further submitted that, given that TELUS Extend is normally offered as a means to retain customers who are considering moving to a different service provider, customers who use TELUS Extend can be expected to have other wireless service providers available at their home location. TELUS stated that it has also taken steps to limit the availability of the service by making the service available on an invitation-only basis.

Commission Analysis

Considering that TELUS Extend enables TELUS mobility customers to use their TELUS Mobility telephone number to make/receive calls or text messages over the Internet whenever they are connected to Wi-Fi, these calls are no longer mobile service calls but rather VoIP calls because they are processed over the Internet via Wi-Fi and not over the cellular network. TELUS Extend also provides subscribers with access to and/or from the Public Switched telephone network along with the ability to make or receive calls that originate and terminate within an exchange or local calling area. In addition, the service uses the customer’s existing telephone number, which is a North American Numbering Plan number. Therefore, the TELUS Extend service meets the Commission’s definition of a local nomadic VoIP service as established in Telecom Decision 2005-21.

TELUS itself has indicated in its response to staff’s request for information that it has included a development path for Wi-Fi calling that will fall back to the nomadic VoIP 9-1-1 solution in instances where the cellular network was not available in a Wi-Fi only area.

Based on the foregoing, the Commission concludes that TELUS is providing a nomadic local VoIP service when providing TELUS Extend via Wi-Fi, regardless of whether the phone number is a new one or one associated with the customer’s existing TELUS mobility service.

Furthermore, in Telecom Decision 2005-21, the Commission directed nomadic local VoIP service providers to provide access to 9-1-1 service that is functionally comparable to Basic 9-1-1 service, which for nomadic VoIP service includes having a third-party call centre verbally determine the caller's location.

Based on TELUS’ response, it does not currently provide a Nomadic VoIP 9-1-1 service for 9-1-1 calls placed through the TELUS Extend service when Wi-Fi calling is in use.
Accordingly, the Commission concludes that with TELUS Extend, which operates as a nomadic local VoIP service when Wi-Fi calling is engaged, TELUS is in non-compliance with the Commission’s determinations in Telecom Decision 2005-21 and subsequent decisions regarding the provision of nomadic VoIP 9-1-1 service. That situation has been ongoing ever since the TELUS Extend service was launched in 2014.

In its response, TELUS did request that should the Commission find TELUS Extend to be a nomadic VoIP service, it should allow the service to wind down as currently configured to its natural end of life in 2017, as an exception to the nomadic local VoIP 9-1-1 requirements. TELUS submitted that if it were mandated to provide the nomadic VoIP 9-1-1 service for Wi-Fi only areas, given the resources dedicated to the development of its next Wi-Fi calling product, its only option would be to remove TELUS Extend entirely from the marketplace, until such time that its future Wi-Fi calling application is introduced.

Canadians’ access to 9-1-1 emergency services is vital, and the Commission has typically gone to considerable efforts to ensure that all service providers, large and small, comply with their 9-1-1 obligations. Despite the notification to TELUS Extend customers that 9-1-1 is not available, TELUS Extend as it currently exists poses a risk to public safety as a caller may expect to be able to reach 9-1-1 during an emergency. The fact that access to 9-1-1 would be available in some situations but not in others does nothing to attenuate the risk of customer confusion.

TELUS has not provided a compelling reason as to why it cannot meet the nomadic VoIP 9-1-1 obligations immediately, given the importance of 9-1-1.

Based on the above, the Commission directs TELUS to:

TELUS is reminded that, consistent with Compliance and Enforcement and Telecom Information Bulletin 2015-111, failure to comply with Telecom Decision 2005-21, or any other decision made by the Commission under the Telecommunications Act, could result in the Commission taking enforcement actions, including the imposition of administrative monetary penalties.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed by

Danielle May-Cuconato
Secretary General

 

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