VoIP Strives to Co-Exist with Alarm Systems

VoIP telephony industry closely watching requirements from top alarm service providers

"In our terms of service, we acknowledge the fact that some home security systems are not compatible with Vonage service," a Vonage spokesman said. "Users may be required to maintain a telephone connection through their local exchange carrier in order to use any alarm monitoring functions for any security system installed in their home or business. The customer is responsible for contacting the alarm monitoring company to test the compatibility of any security system with the service."

The final concern about alarms and VoIP -- sporadic network outages -- also may pertain primarily to VOIP services that use the public Internet for transmission. "Our service is very different from best-effort Internet connectivity," a Comcast spokeswoman said. "We deliver our service over a private managed network."

To date, ADT's and Brinks's acceptance of VoIP seems to be the exception, rather than the rule within the alarm industry. The NBFAA it still seeking a legislative solution, and John Chwat, NBFAA director of government relations, expects to get several provisions written into any telecom bill proposed this year. Some of these provisions -- including a requirement that VoIP providers contact customers' alarm companies if VOIP is installed--simply codify what many providers already are already doing. But another requirement -- to provide 24-hour battery backup -- could add substantially to the cost of VoIP service. Today, even VoIP providers that offer battery backup typically only provide it for a few hours.

Since few people expect to see telecom legislation passed this year, the threat may not be imminent. But, said Chwat, "It's a high-profile issue within the telecom Senate staff. They know there's a problem and they need to address it."