When a natural disaster such as a hurricane severs phone-line communication, alternative transmissio

In September, hundreds of thousands of U.S. homes and businesses were left without phone service and electricity after Hurricane Floyd ravaged through much of the Midwest and East Coast. For many security service clients, the blackout also meant their property’s alarm system was rendered useless – that is, if they had declined to invest in an alternative transmission system.

Most security dealers offer a means of alternative transmission, but clients more often than not choose to forgo the service because of the added expense. Unfortunately, this decision can have disastrous consequences when phone lines are damaged during a natural disaster – or when burglars are sophisticated enough to cut phone lines.

The most commonly used alternative transmission methods include long-range radio, cellular and derived-channel. More security service providers, including ADT, are also exploring new transmission options that take advantage of clients’ existing data networks. In addition, strides in wireless telecommunications technologies, such as the continuing build-out of PCS networks, figure to create more reliable wireless methods in the future.

Long-Range Radio
Avoids Added Charges

“During the last hurricane, we had a lot of customers—throughout the area above the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey – whose telephone lines were out,” says Jon Wapner, president of Allied Central Station Alarm Inc. in Lynbrook, N.Y. “But we were able to continue to monitor them by long-range radio.”

Before choosing long-range radio as the company’s principal technology for alternative transmission, Wapner also explored such options as cellular and control channel technologies such as Cellemetry(tm). But he decided long-range radio might prove more reliable during a natural disaster or widespread emergency, when the volume of cellular voice traffic soars and the potential for overtaxing the network grows.

Data Networks Provide
IP-Based Solution

ADT has also begun taking advantage of DCSecure, a new alternative-transmission solution that connects to a corporate client’s existing wide area network.

Available from ES Source Inc., DCSecure combines hardware and software. The hardware includes a single circuit board that’s installed inside each alarm panel. This hardware’s integrated network interface module (NIM) allows connectivity to a client’s ethernet or token ring data network.

Derived Channel Reliable But Not Always Available
Introduced in 1986, derived channel transmission uses the regular phone lines to carry data packets via a frequency. Derived-channel networks can provide two-way communications between the customer’s alarm equipment and the central station. The method provides a high level of security and reliability, but is not widely available.

Cellular Network Provides
Multiple Options

A number of alternative transmission methods make use of the cellular network – among them, conventional cellular, Cellemetry and MicroBurst.

Maurice Krugman, chairman of APT Services in Richardson, Texas, has opted for a cellular product because of the technology’s ubiquity. Krugman says, “Long-range radio, short-range radio and the packet data systems are only available in certain markets – and they’re different in every market. But cellular covers 99 percent of the population. I can tell a customer that no matter where his location is, we can provide that backup.”

Methods Can Use Cellular
Control Channels

Cellemetry is essentially telemetry over the cellular telephone network. Like MicroBurst, Cellemetry relies on the under-used portion of the cellular system – the overhead control channels – to convey short data messages.

Wireless Options to
Expand With PCS

As telecom giants like Sprint continue to build out their PCS networks, though, analog cellular technology figures to take a backseat to digital wireless transmission.

“There are a lot more [wireless] options today, but the alarm industry is not taking advantage of them,” asserts Michael Lebowitz, general manager of Cellular Alarm Products in Dallas.

Lebowitz predicts that the future of alarm transmission will be such emerging telecom technologies as time division multiple access (TDMA), code division multiple access (CDMA), global system for mobile communications (GSM) and personal communications systems (PCS).

“In the near-future, we’re going to have a total wireless solution,” Lebowitz says. “Phone lines will be going away.”

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