$1 Billion Problem: Can CellBounce Solve the Security Industry’s Sunset Dilemma?
CellBounce’s plug-and-play solution is designed to upgrade 3G systems by converting its signal to 4G/LTE — no truck roll required.
CellBounce’s DIY 3G-Saving Solution: How it Works
CellBounce’s solution is at once ingenious and stupid-simple. Basically, legacy 3G/CDMA radios keep on communicating as usual, but instead of talking to a cell tower miles away, they talk to a CellBounce gateway in the home. CellBounce receives the alarm panel’s 3G signal and converts it to a 4G/LTE signal (or IP or both), sending the message on its merry way to the same place it always goes.
The monitoring station keeps the account. The SHaaS provider like Alarm.com keeps the account. The security dealer keeps the account. And importantly, AT&T and Verizon keep their accounts.
“The solution is fairly unique,” Lamb says. “It doesn’t exist out there. We are acting as a cell tower on site.”
The technique, known as femtocell or small-cell (as opposed to bigger micro- and macro-cell towers) does exist for different applications, though. It’s a similar technique used for cellphone boosters and cell-to-Internet calling.
San Diego-based CellBounce is in a tremendous position to pull it off because of Lamb’s long history in the security industry … and his proximity to some of the greatest minds in 3G.
“This product may not be possible to make outside of San Diego because most engineers that invented 3G/CDMA are based here and now work for us,” Lamb says. “Qualcomm, Leap, AT&T and U-Blox senior engineers all left their jobs to be part of CellBounce.”
Like any cellular device, the femtocells have to be licensed with AT&T, Verizon and other carriers to communicate over their networks … and with modems like the 3G/CDMA variety used in security panels. This feat requires the networking software to begin with, as well as authorization testing and of course a hefty licensing fee.
Lamb says CellBounce has secured three of the five requisite licenses, with the final two almost wrapped up.
“Slowly and methodically we sucked up all of those licenses,” he says. “They all thought we were crazy. “They said, ‘We’ll sell you the license, but are you dumb? Can you count? We’re at 5G, why would you want 3G?’”
Of course, the femtocells require 3G radios to communicate with the security panels, meaning the silicon providers need to keep cranking out those pieces, which apparently they’re all too happy to do.
The cellular carriers are happy too. Assuming ADT is one of AT&T’s largest customers – 3G and otherwise – then AT&T is going to want ADT to keep its alarm accounts. Any ADT account lost, whether from outdated technology or takeovers by competitive dealers, could be a lost account for AT&T.
“AT&T has been very supportive and a pleasure to work with,” Lamb says.
3G Sunset and CellBounce Market Potential
CellBounce’s 4G/LTE gateways (5G-ready with Cat M1) should be good for up to 15 years, Lamb says – 10 years for LTE and five more with 5G, at least in North America.
While his experience is in the security industry, he notes that other industries are in the same boat, with an estimated 220 million 3G devices – mainly for IoT and M2M applications – facing obsolescence.
The numbers tossed around include: 80 million 3G devices in North America alone, “most of which are IoT devices operating on national carriers’ networks.” In the U.S., some 7.5 million IoT devices used for fleet management run on 3G networks, according to research from Gartner. Millions of ATMs use 3G, too.
Talk about emergency responders: “Virtually all of them are on 3G,” Lamb says. “They would have to change out everything in the truck.”
He says CellBounce could be placed in the trucks to bridge 3G networks to the latest FirstNet first-responder network.
Tens of millions of smart meters run over 3G. Lamb suggests CellBounce as an easy fix: Just install a CellBounce gateway in the premises.
Of course, CellBounce isn’t a permanent fix, but if it can extend the life of a mission-critical system for 10 or 15 years, it gives all the players time to plan and deploy their longer-term solutions that anticipate future obsolescence in cellular communications.
Nowadays, product and service providers are designing products with user-replaceable options for cellular and other technologies.
Lamb isn’t sure if CellBounce will play in the larger, multi-application worldwide market. Negotiating with all the constituents and securing licenses is a costly endeavor.
For now, he sees tremendous opportunity in the U.S. alarm market and cannot imagine another entity encroaching on the CellBounce business.
“We’re so far ahead development-wise,” Lamb says, “it would be difficult for anyone to catch up.”
So what does this mean for 3G?
“Everyone thinks 3G is dead,” Lamb says. “Qualcomm is taking an end-of-life chip they no longer make and respinning it for us. They believe it’s a multi-$100-million market.”
CellBounce will offer a few flavors of gateways, including a version for dual cellular/IP communications. The company expects to begin shipping in Q1 2020.
Lamb says he’s already received a letter of intent for an order of 1 million units.
This article first appeared on SSI sister publication CE Pro.
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