Making the transition from POTS

Alarm industry prepares for the end of landline phone services

Whittington added that one of the benefits of moving away from landline-based solutions is faster transmission times.

“That’s actually a win-win for us. We used to battle the 90 second rule with the fire department when we sent (the signal) over POTS lines and you were always nervous if you were going to make your 90 seconds. With AES-Intellinet its just seconds and we’ve got the signal through,” he said. “We’ve not had confidence in POTS lines or telephone lines for some time.”

Whittington estimated that between 50 and 60 percent of the company’s customers are still using POTS line-based systems, but he indicated that they have converted quite a few.

Though it was costly in the beginning for their technicians to learn about newer communication technology, Whittington said that they have learned from their initial mistakes and have become more adept at installing mesh and cellular solutions.

Another company that has been preparing for the transition from POTS to digital is New York Merchants Protective Company. According to Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Mark Fischer, the company has taken steps in preparation for the move to digital communication.

“Our infrastructure that we’ve been investing in over the past couple years has been a lot of IP-based communications, coming up with solutions for transitioning older systems from POTS to IP communications so that our customer base and our dealer base doesn’t have to go out and replace equipment just based upon that fact someone has switched over to IP-based communication,” he said. “In the long run, there’s going to have to be a greater reliance on communications like GSM and things like that because the problem with IP communication compared to the old POTS line is the fact that IP communications, and voice-over-IP and any other terrestrial-based communication relies upon power at the subscriber side and unlike POTS lines where the (power) supply is from the phone company, generally there is no provision for long-term backup (for IP communication users).”

Fischer does expect to see some initial attrition from customers switching from POTS to digital communications, but indicated that companies that can offer alternative solutions will be able to curb that effect.

“One of the problems you have with subscribers transitioning to voice-over-IP is they see a savings,” he said. “They may be saving $50 a month on their phone bill, they’ve already spent that money somewhere else and when the alarm company goes to them and says we have to charge you $250 or $500 now to adapt their system, there is going to be a huge push back against the alarm company. There’s going to be attrition and people are going to drop monitoring because they don’t want to spend that money even though their payback is relatively quick. So by being able to offer inexpensive and effective means of communication on other platforms or adaptations for platforms, we’re giving our dealers a way of having a high retention rate.”

Fischer estimated that 20 percent of the company’s customers are already using VoIP or other communication technologies. He added that both residential and commercial customers are turning to alternate forms of communication as a cost savings measure.

The good news, according to Mechler, is that most companies in the industry have familiarized themselves with emerging alarm communication technologies in anticipation of the phasing out of POTS.

“We have a lot of experience. I don’t think you’re ever ready for a sea change like the main communication path just disappearing,” he said. “Though it’s going to be a challenge for us, it’s my opinion that as an industry and as manufacturers and installers, we’re ready and we’ll be able to adapt to it.”