Security Watch

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A: Wireless coverage assessment...cellular doesn't penetrate all buildings equally. Types and locations of buildings drastically affect cellular RF characteristics. The higher the building floor often results in less than optimal adequate signal quality. If the alarm is dependent on cellular backhaul, coordination with the carrier is strongly recommended. Additionally, one should determine from the carrier how redundant is the coverage for the desired area.

Q: One of the other important aspects mentioned in the session is that folks should start aligning themselves more with the wireless carriers on the market. You also pointed out that one of the benefits of partnering with a wireless carrier is they may be able to fund some of the cost associated with ones system. Does this apply to the security alarm professionals of the security industry as well? Should they be paying attention to what's going on with the wireless carriers?

A: Wireless carriers today offer wireless (cellular) modem options. Also, wireless air cards may suffice dependent upon adequate interface to the alarm panel. Carriers often have dedicated solution engineers to work with the alarm vendor.

Q: Also discussed in the session was how Cellular Specialties implements site surveys to determine a potential customers weakest/strongest wireless signals in an area. Will alarm professionals see an increased need to start implementing site surveys as they provide more wireless alarm communication software and services?

A: If they are dependent on cellular backhaul/connections for alarm patency, than yes. The issue really is interpreting what RF characteristics and data exists once the walk is completed. The equipment is very expensive and interpretation requires an RF engineer. There is no simple gadget to capture and determine what is good versus poor signal. Another consideration is, where coverage exists today may change tomorrow. For example, new building construction, network frequency changes for a carrier, rush hour or even a major sporting event may increase demand and reduce capacity and therefore affect the coverage quality and penetration characteristics.

Q: How should alarm professionals address some of the challenges such as concrete or steel structures during the installation phase? Would this be something they should consider when designing wireless alarm communication devices/panels/receivers? Or now that devices are becoming wireless, will this become less of a concern?

A: External antennas are one option, however for more robust and reliable solutions, an in-building amplifier is more often the selected option. This installation is often done with the carrier's coordination. Any reproduction of radio frequency of an FCC licensed band requires the licensee's permission. It's not as simple a phone call to the carrier. Because repeaters are bi-directional (they amplify RF within a building, they also amplify the signal out of the building), an incorrect installation can create havoc with the carrier outdoor network that affects the macro cellular towers. There is more to consider than simply building density. Items such as anodized windows, what other RF existing in the building, total number of cellular devices in a building and how the devices are used (voice vs. data) significantly influence coverage predictions.

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