The future of GSM radio

The sky is not falling, but you should read this

Recently the CDMA rates have become commensurate with GSM because of other M2M and telemetry applications moving into the CDMA network. To date no other security providers have communicators using this technology. CDMA has certain advantages over GSM, namely that Verizon's network is truly bigger and less crowded on the data side. The other interesting thing is that because CDMA is late to mature for M2M applications, the modules that are now becoming available are both 2G and 3G modules, so any future alarm communicators would likely already be designed as 3G and would have an expected life possibly to 2030.
Why GSM (2G and 2.5G) may last longer

A key point to consider as we try to predict the life of our current GSM solution; 3G and 4G networks do not support voice or SMS nearly as well as the older technology. Both the new 3G and 4G technologies are designed to IP packet DATA thru put. 4G (LTE) does not even have a voice or SMS component to it. However, the carriers create significant revenue from the voice and SMS that they are not going to want to soon give up. That coupled with the fact that in an IP data environment, a VoIP offering is easily and cheaply (or free) offered by folks like Google, Skype, or other. This significant amount of revenue is put at risk, if the carriers turn off GSM. These two facts may mean that GSM (2G and 2.5G) voice, SMS and data networks may be maintained for longer than we currently think.

I predict that as a general rule IP will continue to dominate commercial alarm communication and cellular will be the choice for residential. A few manufacturers now have UL 864 NFPA 72 approved GSM Fire Communication with NO OTHER technologies required and as that matures and AHJ's accept it, I expect the trend for commercial to move more toward cellular. I would not look for residential to trend toward IP, with the exception of very large homes that include home automation systems and/or managed networks. The other exception to that would be Managed Facilities-based Voice Network (MFVN) and Fiber Optic Services (FiOS) to the curb in large housing developments. As that is deployed, IP for alarm communication will be an obvious choice.

Attrition: prevention IS the only cure

As we migrate from 2G to 3G and on to 4G the cost of transmitting the data is reported to be 50 percent of the previous generation. Bear in mind that the cost of the data is not the total cost you pay per month, just a small piece. However, if that prediction holds true, cellular will continue to become more affordable and will continue to be the product of choice for alarm communications. It will remain the choice even with alarm companies having to change out the communicators every 10 to 15 years. That is only one of the many reasons you should use a panel platform that is forward and backwards compatible.

In today's churning technology world, with 12- to 18-month life cycles on cell phones, combined with the summer door knocker programs, the days of the customer using the same old panel for 15 to 20 years is over. If you don't keep your customer close to you and up to date on the latest advances, they will find someone who will. Not to mention that once or twice every summer each of your customers will get a knock on their door and will be told any number of convincing stories to try to get them to leave you, and go with whatever these guys happen to be selling. You can't afford to let your customers get stale and you need to make them as sticky as possible.

Cellular-enabled panels allow all kinds of advancements that tie the users to their system, adding value and opportunities for RMR. Just simply giving users the ability to arm/disarm their system from any cell phone or check status remotely while in their car provides end users with much more peace of mind as a customer. If you haven't made the jump to installing your panels on the next technology, instead of the last technology, you are about to get left behind.

Mark Hillenburg is the product architect, Digital Monitoring Products (DMP), Springfield, Mo. He can be reached at