Digital Dawn Lights Up Alarm Industry
One moment the sun is barely visible over the horizon, and the next instant it is shining brightly on everything and everyone. Such is the dawn that has occurred each day since the beginning of known time. While not as breathtakingly beautiful and spiritual as Mother Nature’s handiwork, another dawn is at hand that also profoundly impacts humankind — particularly the electronic security industry. It’s known as The Digital Dawn.
The Digital Dawn has been discussed, researched, promoted, promised and forecasted for some time. As with any new major technology shift, some believe things are moving too slowly, while others say adoption is too swift. The bottom line: This event is taking place here and now.
The Digital Dawn has the industry seeing new digital technologies being adopted at a sprinter’s pace, while political and social forces are pushing old analog technology out. The wide acceptance of high definition (HD) video, high-speed Internet, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Short Messaging Service (SMS) are examples of how new technological forces are rising and merging as never before.
Before a new dawn can occur, however, there has to be the sunset of a previous era. One of the driving forces for this new Digital Dawn is the rapid conclusion of what has been known in the security industry as the FCC AMPS “Sunset Clause.”
As of Feb. 18, 2008, a five-year transition period will come to an end and alarm systems using the existing analog Advanced Mobile Phone Systems (AMPS) cellular radio technology will have their services terminated. Dealers on the street have already commented how AMPS cellular providers are reducing this service dramatically, thereby affecting their customers’ alarm wireless connectivity.
According to the FCC, “As part of its Biennial Review of regulation, the FCC modified or eliminated various rules in Part 22 that have become outdated due to supervening rules, technological change, or increased competition among providers of Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS).”
Recently, the FCC has denied two requests from alarm industry organizations such as the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) to extend AMPS service. Despite an intense lobbying campaign, the industry was first denied a two-year extension, and in June the AICC was notified its modified nine-month extension appeal was rebuffed.
The industry is worried that the remaining transition period time will leave thousands of customers stranded without their valuable life-safety radio monitoring services. Several key areas of concern are the availability of new digital GSM products and GSM radio coverage in some areas.
Fortunately, there are sensible and readily available solutions to these and other issues surrounding the AMPS Sunset. What’s more, The Digital Dawn promises exciting new revenue stream opportunities and service offerings that could have alarm dealers and their customers singing their happiest tune since the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
AMPS Wireless Standard to Fade Into Sunset 2/18/08
AMPS was introduced to the United States by Bell Labs as a cell phone standard in 1983. Each conversation consisted of a separate transmission and received frequency or “channel.” For years, the security industry has sent data over separate control channels in the AMPS system. The analog system had some key drawbacks, including static/noise and large bandwidth problems in high population areas.
Making things more confusing is the fact many of the AMPS systems were later partially converted into what was called D-AMPS, or otherwise known by the generic cellular term TDMA. D-AMPS is referred to as a 2G class digital cellular technology, thereby making many alarm dealers and owners convinced they have a digital rather than an analog communication system.
To combat this, the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) has been notifying the industry that both AMPS and digitally modified AMPS systems are being phased out. The only radio alternatives are private radio networks or the newer GSM cellular technology.
In a written statement to its members, CSAA recently announced: “In the absence of an affirmative extension from the FCC, the AMPS Sunset will occur as scheduled. The largest cellular carriers (providing service to most of the country) have publicly reported to the FCC that they will shut down their AMPS service shortly after the scheduled Feb. 18, 2008 ‘Sunset’ date. In fact, there have been several reports of AMPS network deterioration. Therefore, immediate action is required.
“What this means to the alarm industry is that whatever cellular backup or primary units (both direct analog and control channel versions) an alarm company may had previously installed will no longer work once the cellular carrier shuts down its AMPS system. Please be aware that some dealers are under the misconception that their installed cellular units are ‘digital’ and they are not affected by this sunset issue. Unless you have specifically installed GSM cellular radios, your ‘digital’ units that use the control channel of the analog (AMPS) service will stop functioning.”
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