RTT is here. Also, what in the world is RTT?

Posted on Feb 19, 2019

It seems like every time you turn around there is a new technology coming your way, promising to make life “easier” right? Sometimes part of the stress of new technology is simply a lack of understanding. So today, we want to provide information about a textual communication tool that is going to open accessibility in your community and make it easier to serve your citizens and visitors.

At the end of 2016, the FCC adopted new rules that would facilitate the transition from outdated text telephony (TTY) to Real-Time Text (RTT). As of December 31, 2019, the FCC went a step further and mandated that nationwide carriers support Real-Time Text on all new wireless devices.

What does this mean for you? In a few months, citizens, especially the deaf and hearing or speech impaired, will be empowered with modern textual communication that 9-1-1 will not support. Just as users turned from TTY to text to 9-1-1 for greater accessibility, they indeed will turn to Real-Time Text to avoid the pitfalls of text to 9-1-1. What exactly is Real-Time Text? Real-Time Text enables users to participate in a simultaneous voice and text conversation. This differs from text messaging where users compose the full message, hit “send,” and wait for a reply. Also, text messaging is stateless, so there is no indication of user activity, and messages can be delayed or lost when there is network congestion. Senders of text messages also may not receive delivery confirmation or an error message if it was not delivered.

In Real-Time Text, individually typed characters or groups of characters are transmitted via the same basic protocol as audio and video. With Real-Time Text, unlike text to 9-1-1, the recipient sees each character or word in the message almost immediately after the sender types it.

What that means in English: because there is no delay between sending and receiving messages, telecommunicators will receive the signal for help as quickly as it comes through, and the person on the other end of the line will see a response as it is typed.

Why is Real-Time Text more effective than Text to 9-1-1?

  • Real-Time Text and voice can be used simultaneously during a call.
  • There is greater situational awareness with Real-Time Text.
  • Real-Time Text supports a broader character set that includes symbols, URLs, emojis and multiple languages.
  • It is a more reliable technology that eliminates dropped calls, lost messages, and garbling.
  • With Real-Time Text, both parties receive messages as they are typed.
  • No need to hit “send” after each message when using Real-Time Text.
  • With Real-Time Text, conversations are fast and interactive. What it comes down to is this: People in an emergency and telecommunicators have common goals, one, to be sure the call for help is received, and two, that the appropriate personnel can respond swiftly and with all the information they need to handle the situation. This is the promise with Real-Time Text.

Who will use Real-Time Text? While Real-Time Text will have the most significant impact by opening up reliable lines of communication in the deaf and hearing-impaired community, other scenarios such as getting help without alerting an intruder, aiding in a kidnapping, or providing access for people in trouble who are more comfortable texting will be just as important.

Real-Time Text will be available to consumers as of 6/30/2020, but 9-1-1 will not be ready. To support the needs of your community, it is essential to pick a Next Generation Core Service solution that can provide Real-Time Text today.

For our customers, we can support Real-Time Text today. Here’s what that means to our customer, Ted Sparks, in Logan County WV:

My biggest issue with text to 9-1-1 is the additional problems it creates in communication. While text to 9-1-1 can be an important line of communication, you lose so much. You lose those signals that are so important such as noise or hearing a person breathing; you don’t have that persistent feedback that lets each of you know the other party is still there. That’s where Real-Time Text is different. You get feedback. You can see that a message is read and delivered, and you can see the response immediately as the person types it. There is the ability to use voice and text at the same time.

For Logan County, that is the best part of this tool. Giving that awareness to both sides of the call ensures that the person requesting help will get it when they need it most.

Where can I get further information? The FCC will provide updates as they are available. However, if you have questions about how Real-Time Text will work in real life, please contact one of our industry professionals. We are happy to chat with you about it, or better yet, demonstrate how it works!