Telecommunications giant AT&T recently announced it will be sunsetting its 2G network by the end of 2016, and many other telcos are setting their own schedules in order to use that bandwidth to increase capacity 100-fold for 3G/4G services that allow for growing data use.
Unlike the 2008 sunset of AMPS (Advance Mobile Phone System) technology by the FCC, there is no process of appeal to a government agency this time. That’s because these are private companies making decisions on how to best use their assets.
With a solid date and ample warning, alarm dealers must now plan ahead to make sure their customers have a viable communication vehicle to the central station to meet long-term needs.
Confronting Real-World Issues
As they say, timing is everything. Undoubtedly, there will be customers who were upgraded to 2G technology as AMPS faded away. With the coming sunset, these customers will need assurances that the new equipment they must purchase will be viable for many years to come.
There are several code-compliant solutions available to dealers so customers will not be forced into making system upgrades again in just a few short years. Check with your central station to see which ones are available to you.
One solution to consider is IP alarm communication. Although technology advances daily, IP technology appears to be stable enough that current equipment will not be obsolete in just a few short years. For existing installations, your customers may consider adding a compatible after-market device that converts the system to IP communication. This eliminates the cost of replacing the installed panel.
Although the initial cost of an IP communicator can be steeper, dealers can explain to customers that IP devices may eliminate the need for phone lines and that they will save compared to current GSM costs. Over time, the installation cost will be recaptured.
The foremost reason to select IP communication is the ability to cost-effectively poll the system’s availability in short intervals. Some of these systems default to poll every 90 seconds, but this can be overridden to shorten the interval.
In contrast, with POTS (plain old telephone service) or cellular technology, polling intervals are usually set at 24 hours, meaning that a system could be down that long before a trouble signal is generated. Also, increasing the polling frequency can increase traffic charges by cellular service providers.
Something else to consider is that the industry’s largest alarm companies are going to market with an offering of alarm, video and home-automation systems using an IP backbone.
Through nationwide television ads and other marketing tactics, those companies are creating a demand for such services. Keep in mind, independent alarm dealers and their central stations have the ability to offer many of the same services via an IP alarm system. By selling customers on next-generation technology now, you can also increase your recurring monthly revenue for years to come.
Explore All Options
IP should not be the only technology to consider because there are other code-compliant methods to connect customers to their central station.
Although NFPA 72 does not specifically prohibit sending alarms over the Internet, some AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) still will not accept it. Additionally, IP communication requires network connectivity, thus there is the need (and cost) of having additional battery back-ups in place to ensure ongoing network operation.
Although the 2G sunset makes the industry ponder communication options, the truth is alarm dealers do that right now. For example, when considering IP signal delivery, dealers already must choose built-in dial-capture designs or systems that output through the data bus.
Going forward, my recommendation is this: Contact the manufacturers of 2G units you have installed to get their input on upgrade options. Once you have developed a couple of solutions, contact affected subscribers right away so they are aware of the situation years in advance. Although they may balk at an immediate upgrade, customers can budget for this in the years to come, which gives your company a tremendous sales opportunity to upgrade the entire system.
Kevin Lehan is Manager of Public Relations for Des Plaines, Ill.-based Emergency24 Inc. He also serves as executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA).