AMPS Sunset Passes Quietly; Many Systems Remain Vulnerable

TORRANCE, Calif. — Only time will tell, but the alarm industry has so far avoided the large-scale calamity some feared with the expiration of the advanced mobile phone service (AMPS) “Sunset” on Feb. 18.

Mandated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the deadline freed cellular carriers from their obligation to continue operating analog wireless networks. Without a functioning backup to digital dialers, manufacturers and dealers alike were concerned the safety of tens of thousands of users could be compromised without alarm signaling. Indeed, as of September 2007, according to an SSI Web poll, nearly half of the respondents said they were still in the process of switching their customers over from AMPS service, while almost a third said they had not yet done a thing to prepare.

Although purely a guesstimate, Bud Wulforst, president of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), says there may be upward of 400,000 alarms systems that have yet to be converted. In any case, Wulforst, along with other industry professionals contacted by SSI, reports the Sunset date passed without much consequence.  “The larger, more established companies did a good job converting their customers. I really haven’t heard of any trouble so far.” It’s the smaller companies that have him concerned, Wulforst says. “A lot of the smaller companies that may not have contact with their customers weren’t able to convert.”

George Gunning, president of the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), says all is currently calm on the AMPS front, but he asks a prescient question: “How many systems are out there around the country that haven’t sent any signals this year? That client doesn’t know that their system may not be working.”

Gunning says the major cellular providers such as Verizon and AT&T were scheduled to shut off most or all of their service after Feb. 18. Smaller providers, especially in rural areas are expected to terminate service in phases.

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