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Why GMLC-based Location Intelligence is No Longer Enough

Picture of a city with "5G" and location icons superimposed

Accurate, immediate, reliable caller-location information is critical for public safety answering points (PSAPs) to guide the response to emergency services calls. While international standards help spur adoption of location intelligence advances in successive network generations, the mixed topologies of modern mobile networks can complicate implementations. Mobile network operators (MNOs) may offer subscriber services that range from 2G through 5G, for example, a practice that is particularly prevalent in Latin America.

Regulators in such regions, as elsewhere, are therefore establishing new mandates to govern the quality of location information for emergency services calls, which has a direct bearing on the underlying technologies used. Network generations prior to and including 5G use the gateway mobile location center (GMLC), which provides the location of the base station currently serving the subscriber, but not the handset itself. Standalone 5G (5G SA) networks enhance location services even further by adding the location management function (LMF), which provides more granular location within the cell, but many operators have not yet implemented a 5G core. These network-based methodologies can be supplemented with GPS data, which is subject to subscriber-controlled settings on the handset, weather conditions, and signal strength.

Regulatory Location Requirements to Improve Emergency Services

While the specifics of mandates vary by jurisdiction, they are broadly concerned with accuracy, speed, and reliability. The SS8 platform helps match today’s range of location technologies and mandates to operational realities. SS8 location intelligence automatically fuses data from multiple network and device sources to seamlessly deliver the highest quality results. It also streamlines integration with third-party software, such as PSAP systems, using a powerful gateway and middleware layer.

  • Accuracy is a first order concern, directing first responders to the right location. The size of base station cells and the distances between them determine the accuracy of GMLC location information. As such, it is often difficult to locate an emergency caller in a rural location, where towers are often kilometers apart. As mandates become more stringent, the accuracy shortcomings of GMLC become more pronounced.
  • Speed with which location can be delivered to the PSAP is also critical, to immediately guide emergency response. While GPS (when available) can provide the accuracy required, engaging it on a handset where location services are disabled incurs delay that can interfere with mandates as well as cost lives.
  • Reliability mandates are concerned with the percentage of emergency calls where location is successfully determined. The inherent complexity of locating callers under a variety of device and network conditions makes it necessary to combine all potential location sources into a coherent whole.

Transitioning to Meet New Mandates and Standards

The rollout of 5G services continues to accelerate as MNOs seek new use cases and revenue streams. Geometric improvements in bandwidth and latency spur on the adoption of new business models and strategies underpinned by technologies like immersive media and machine-to-machine communication. Yet many mobile networks are still in the transitional stage of 5G, meaning they are using their existing 4G cores with 5G RAN.

Delivery of 5G services without a 5G core is widely considered a temporary solution due to the inability to fully embrace distributed cloud and edge models. For location-based services, adopting a 5G SA architecture adds the LMF, which 3GPP has specified as the central network element for 5G location services. SS8’s platform applies specialized location algorithms to data provided by the LMF to automatically generate highly accurate location information, helping to meet emerging mandates for emergency caller location in 5G networks. Therefore, MNOs should be motivated to implement modern location-based services using a 5G SA core sooner rather than later.

For every network generation, SS8’s platform extracts location data from all available network and device sources and transforms it automatically and instantaneously into intelligence that locates mobile callers. It encompasses both GMLC for standard cell-ID accuracy and technology for higher accuracy sub-cell information, as well as the LMF for the highest accuracy available, providing a futureproof approach to location-based services. It supports both real-time operation for PSAPs and passive operation for bulk data analytics that support lawful intelligence activities such as crowd and traffic analysis.

Support for Multiple Generations of Location Services

For the foreseeable future, MNOs will be compelled to operate multiple generations of networks. Therefore, while GMLC is no longer sufficient for modern location-based services, it must remain a first-order data source. SS8 supports all generations of location technologies from 2G to 5G and beyond with MiddleWise, a flexible gateway and middleware layer for both active and passive location.

MiddleWise masks the complexity of the standard GMLC interface, providing today’s developers with RESTful APIs as well as the standard OMA MLP interface so they can plug in and use it directly. Third-party software can use MiddleWise as an interface that lends itself to modern programming approaches using JSON and HTTPS. This abstraction allows programmatic consumption of location data from all sources, regardless of the technology generation, without a detailed knowledge of location services.

By allowing the interoperation of multiple generations of location technology while also providing an advanced LMF solution, SS8’s platform delivers fast, accurate, reliable location-based services to help meet mandates and save lives.

About Javier D’Agostino

Javier is Sales Director, LATAM at SS8 and has over 20 years of experience as a sales leader.  At SS8, he is responsible for the strategic expansion into Communication Service Providers and Law Enforcement Agencies (Intelligence and Security) for the LATAM market.  He has a BS in Information System Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of CEMA. To learn more about Javier, view his LinkedIn profile here.



About Simon Mason

Simon Mason is a Solutions Architect at SS8 with over 25 years of experience in software engineering and telecommunications. With an emphasis in network location solutions, he is part of SS8’s LocationWise product team, helping law enforcement, government agencies, and emergency services locate and respond to public safety incidents. He holds a Masters in Computer Science from California State University and a BS in Industrial Engineering from California Polytechnic State University. To learn more about Simon, view his LinkedIn profile here.

About SS8 Networks

As a leader in Lawful and Location Intelligence, SS8 helps make societies safer. Our commitment is to extract, analyze, and visualize the critical intelligence that gives law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and emergency services the real-time insights that help save lives. Our high performance, flexible, and future-proof solutions also enable mobile network operators to achieve regulatory compliance with minimum disruption, time, and cost. SS8 is trusted by the largest government agencies, communications providers, and systems integrators globally.

Intellego® XT monitoring and data analytics portfolio is optimized for Law Enforcement Agencies to capture, analyze, and visualize complex data sets for real-time investigative intelligence.

LocationWise delivers the highest audited network location accuracy worldwide, providing active and passive location intelligence for emergency services, law enforcement, and mobile network operators.

Xcipio® mediation platform meets the demands of lawful intercept in any network type and provides the ability to transcode (convert) between lawful intercept handover versions and standard families.

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