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Calling Emergency Services from a Mobile

112 does not go via satellite

Thursday, 5 Jan 2012

By: National Operations

Mobile phone users are reminded that the 112 emergency number widely promoted by some as being available anywhere does not go via satellite networks, and relies on there being a mobile network signal in order to work.

When digital mobile phones were first introduced in Australia the 112 emergency number was promoted as the best number to call as it offered enhanced features not available by calling triple-zero (000). This included the ability to contact emergency services even if your mobile network had no signal at the time, the phone had no SIM card, or the phone was locked.

However, ACREM was recently contacted by a mobile user when, following an accident in the NSW town of Moonan Flats, he was unable to contact emergency services using 112. The user reported that local emergency services volunteers had recently visited their work site and had advised them that using 112 meant the signal would go via satellite, and would therefore give coverage anywhere in Australia. Obviously the user was rather frustrated that this didn’t happen!

Satellite phones use very different technology than ordinary mobile phones, and it is impossible for an ordinary mobile to communicate with a satellite. This means that the 112 and triple-zero (000) numbers will only work if there is a signal from one of the mobile phone networks in the area you are trying to call from.

Modern networks now provide the same enhanced services when you dial triple-zero (000) as well as 112, so there should be no real advantage to using 112 in Australia, although if you can’t get through on triple-zero (000) you should always try 112. As long as there is a signal from any of the mobile phone networks, dialing either number should get you through to the emergency services, even if you don’t have a signal from your own provider.

For more information on calling emergency services from a mobile phone, refer to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - Calling the Emergency Services from a mobile phone FAQ.

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