How Home Alarm Systems Work – What Happens to Cellular Monitoring When AT&T Buys T-Mobile?

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It’s a fairly well-known fact that most home alarm systems – even many of the systems being sold and installed today – require a vulnerable  “POTS” phone line (Plain Old Telephone Service) to communicate alarms to the monitoring center.  I think it’s a bad thing to rely on a connection any burglar can cut with a $3 pair of wire cutters, and have often posted on the benefits of safer cellular monitoring. But what the alarm companies know (and are generally not sharing) is that those traditional phone lines are going to disappear at some point. In fact, late last year AT&T petitioned the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) for permission to set a “sunset” date by which the carriers no longer have to support traditional phone lines. Many alarm companies have introduced alternatives (cellular and even broadband solutions) – but only a handful of alarm companies truly focus on cellular monitoring. And now AT&T has made an offer to buy T-Mobile. What does this mean for the alarm industry? Here’s a recent article from an alarm industry publication that addresses the cellular landscape for home alarms.

Ever since rumblings of a POTS sunset began last year, the security industry has been concerned with where a dependable communications pathway would come from. Most eyes have turned to broadband and GSM as two alternatives. With the March 20 announcement of AT&T’s agreement to buy competitor T-Mobile for $39 billion, a new wrinkle to the communications pathway has been introduced with which the security industry must contend, assuming the acquisition passes muster with the SEC.

GSM is the Alarm Industry Choice for Cellular Monitoring

Wireless communications right now come in two flavors: CDMA (Sprint and Verizon) and GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile). GSM is the most widely adopted platform on a global level and for that reason, is the one security solution manufacturers use for wireless communications devices. The T-Mobile deal will give AT&T a GSM monopoly.

Is There a Real Concern?

How will this affect the security industry? “Ultimately this is going to affect everyone in the industry. If you look at today’s GSM offerings, the vast majority of security guys are going with AT&T as a carrier,” Mace CSSS’ Morgan Hertel told Security Systems News. “It’s not that coverage is going to go away or get worse or better, it’s that we don’t have a choice anymore.

Not Everyone is Worried

“The sole source issue is a moot point. Virtually the entire industry is using AT&T and the cost of completely changing carriers based on what we have installed today would amount to swapping SIMs throughout the entire install base: a cost prohibitive exercise,” said Shawn Welsh, VP of marketing for Telular,  a manufacturer of wireless solutions. “New entrants to this space may find a less flexible AT&T, but the alarm industry’s hardware and service providers … already have strong, stable carrier relationships. Our prices won’t change.”

Possible Good News

Another silver lining to the potential AT&T/T-Mobile merger is that the established GSM platforms (2 G and 2.5 G devices) will probably be supported for longer than originally expected, because of the two companies combining their technologies and cellular frequencies. That’s good news for alarm companies – and alarm customers as well, since the existing technologies should continue to operate for at least another decade – probably longer. In the world of technology, that’s a very long horizon indeed.

FrontPoint is at the forefront of cellular monitoring technology – and our partnership with Alarm.com means we’ll stay in the lead as wireless alarm technology continues to evolve. Remember, FrontPoint was the first (and is still the only) alarm company to use 100% cellular monitoring on every system we’ve ever sold. Safer and more reliable – just like FrontPoint itself. That’s one more reason why FrontPoint is the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. When you don’t want a burglar to disable your home alarm by cutting your phone or Internet cable, and you don’t want your phone company to rob your peace of mind by making your alarm system obsolete, you’re ready for FrontPoint.

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