Analog signals, once beamed from cellular towers and commonly used by cell phones, were discontinued this week in another move toward the digital revolution.
While few cell phones lost reception, thousands of U.S. security alarm companies including many local security companies that used the analog signal are replacing home and business units and consumers are paying a price, officials say.
"(Analog) is clearly going away," said John Lee, vice president and general manager of ADS Security in Chattanooga.
In a 2002 report, the FCC said that requiring wireless companies to continue offering analog service hindered competition because it was an unnecessary operating cost. Carriers want to use all their wireless spectrum for digital technology, rather than setting aside portions for analog.
The FCC sunset date fell Monday, permitting cellular carriers to discontinue support of analog wireless networks known as AMPS, or advanced mobile phone services.
Most alarm systems in homes and businesses do not use a wireless radio signal to connect to a central monitoring station. However, according to the FCC, 1 million systems send a wireless signal, and many systems installed before spring 2006 used analog equipment.
Mr. Lee said ADS Security used a lot of cellular backup units and over the last six months has been working to replace those units with digital equipment.
Since July, Mr. Lee said ADS Security has replaced 250 units in the area, and customers have paid up to $125 to have their units replaced.
The backup units are important security measures, he said, for high-profile homes or businesses that are targets for professional burglars who know how to cut the phone line -- the first line of communication with the alarm system -- during a break-in.
"Signals are sent through the phone lines and in an attempted break-in, if the phone lines are cut, the signal wouldn't go through," he said.
Dependable Security, an alarm company in Ringgold, Ga., has also been transitioning clients from analog to digital. All customers who want to keep their wireless service and move to the new system are charged $175, said Corey Cochran, operation manager at Dependable.
"Very few (people) have shown concern," he said. "It has gone pretty well for us. We have gotten a good response."
Yet, Mr. Cochran said some customers have chosen not to pay the fees and replace their wireless system.
Alarm companies were aware of the analog sunset in early 2007 and most companies sent letters to their customers to inform them of the transition, said Mr. Lee, but there are still consumers out there who don't know their analog service needs to be changed.
"It is a serious issue," he said.
In Tennessee there are strict licensing requirements for alarm dealers, but Mr. Lee said that doesn't mean that consumers shouldn't check into their service and make sure, if they use a wireless signal, it is digitally compatible.
"It is like any other business. There are unscrupulous people out there," he said.
WHY IS ANALOG DISAPPEARING?
A Federal Communications Commission report said requiring wireless companies to continue offering analog service hindered competition because it was an unnecessary operating cost. It said carriers want to use all their wireless spectrum for digital technology, rather than setting aside portions for analog.