Analog Cellular Back-Up System Phase Out

The analog network that supports all cellular back-up systems in North America is being phased out. In the US, regulators have mandated that the phase out cannot begin earlier than 2008 while in Canada no such regulation exists and telecom providers are technically free to dismantle their analog network and transition to digital at anytime.

What’s especially challenging for us right now is that there is no digital equivalent to the cellular back-up units available yet…although they are slated for a ‘beta’ release very soon. The issues are:

1. The very best protection against the risk associated with having your telephone lines cut is by having an Alarmnet Cellular back-up system (Alarmnet is a division of Honeywell) installed (which is what every one of our clients with cellular back-up have);

2. The network that these (and any other) units use is being phased out and is unlikely to last past 2008 – but may be cut out sooner; and

3. The digital ‘upgrade’ or new units to replace the analog units have not been released yet.

As Provident is one of the largest dealers of Alarmnet Cellular systems in B.C., I have been having frequent and lengthy discussions with Honeywell management. Verbally, I have been assured that the analog phase out will not happen as quickly as we might expect, especially in urban centres like Vancouver, because Rogers has more than a million clients who still use the system. Further, many other services such as the OnStar system in people’s vehicles all use the system and cannot be easily upgraded. Bottom line being that there is still a lot of people and systems relying on this network and transitioning most of them onto the new network will take a lot of time.

I have been assured that Provident will be given a very early opportunity to act as a beta test site for the new digital units as soon as they are available. I’m hoping to have one by the summer.

In the absence of a better alternative, we are still selling and installing the cellular back-up systems because we feel very strongly that you must have a secondary communication method in place. However, we are warning clients that we have to either replace or upgrade the unit soon – likely within 24 months.

We are monitoring this situation very, very closely and we will definitely be advised before any service interuption or termination occurs. More importantly, the moment that the new digital replacement is available, we will get in touch with every affected client to discuss upgrade options and costs as well as schedule a time to replace the unit.

I am heading to Las Vegas for the major security show next month and this issue is at the very top of my list to discuss so that we can ensure that we get the best possible pricing and earliest possible delivery for the new digital units.

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