Sometimes, You Need to Let Go
The industry has long assumed that the only rock-solid solution for alarm monitoring is a dedicated phone line. A separate land line is the time-tested mark of assurance that all critical alarm notifications will complete successfully and under all conditions. If you’ve been a serious operator, you’ve needed a dedicated line for every location.
A certain mythology has surrounded the analog or copper-based POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines. They have been resilient, highly available, undefeatable, and thus necessary. When new monitoring technologies entered the market, many dealers viewed them with suspicion. Even after many alarm operators started using 2G or 3G cellular as their primary monitoring method, most installations still retained a dedicated “copper” analog line as a backup. It was the one thing everyone in the alarm industry could rely on.
But now, it’s getting harder to believe in that sacred analog phone line. Plain-old-analog telephone service is no longer “plain” or analog. Really, it isn’t even “old” anymore.
“Copper” is No Longer Copper
In many locations, old-style analog phone systems have been supplanted by VoIP systems – sometimes without the knowledge of the alarm operator. VoIP transmits analog voice signals through an IP network after converting them into digital form. Standard PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) calls are now digitized and routed through VoIP over the public Internet, and not the private copper-based networks we knew from the days of Ma Bell.
In many ways, VoIP has brought great benefits. VoIP has dramatically reduced the cost of telecommunications and greatly cut the amount of work needed to administer private phone systems. But when we try to use this new digital VoIP technology to transmit the analog notifications generated by alarm systems, we frequently run into problems.
Using a VoIP “dedicated” line, analog communications from the alarm system are translated into the digital domain, and often, something gets lost in translation. The standard series of DTMF (Dual Tone Multi Frequency) signals in an alarm notification string are very sensitive to timing, and timing often gets distorted under VoIP. One survey revealed that of the 18% of all analog alarm calls that failed during the survey period, 80% were traceable to VoIP-related problems.
By itself, VoIP is great – just as analog used to be great. But the forced marriage of the two can be a disaster for alarm operators (and customers) everywhere.
Digital cellular notification seems to be a great way to get around the difficulties of VoIP, but there are serious complications with this. Approximately 70% of all installed alarms formerly used the 2G cellular network standard. Note our words well: they formerly used it. The entire 2G network was retired for good on December 31st, 2016. That means many systems that once relied on a 2G cell connection are now left to an analog-over-VoIP “dedicated” line that might not work when it’s needed most. Relying on cellular alone isn’t a sound, future-proof approach.
A Better Solution
The current problems around the retirement of 2G and the spottiness of analog communication through VoIP represent a great opportunity to upgrade to something better. There are solutions that avoid both the weaknesses of analog-over-VoIP and limited cell-network standards.
ipDatatel offers alarm communicators that combine a latest-generation cellular communicator with a direct IP interface. These devices avoid the analog-over-VoIP problems by circumventing the PTSN phone system entirely. In addition to a 4G cell interface, it uses a technology that will never be sunset: Internet Protocol (IP) networking.
This alarm communicator is available from ipDatatel today. It installs quickly and easily in most alarm panels. It also interfaces with IP networks already pre-installed in most commercial locations, using either cabled Ethernet or automatically-configured Wi-Fi. ipDatatel not only provides a truly safe, future-proof solution, but they can also reduce support costs by allowing remote maintenance and administration. The system presents an opportunity to not only fix a problem but to increase value and efficiency.
ipDatatel offers dealers a solution that’s much less dangerous than that “safe” analog phone line. Let those dedicated phone lines fade into the past. You have better places to be.