AT&T to enter Atlanta security market

The telecom is not yet revealing details of its products and services, but it will reportedly open its own monitoring station
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

KENNESAW, Ga.—The news that AT&T is creating a new Atlanta-based division to offer customers home security and home automation—and that it reportedly will open its own monitoring station—carries some positive implications for local alarm companies, said John Loud, owner of Loud Security Systems, which is based here.

For example, said Loud, who also is president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Security Association (GELSSA), he looks forward to AT&T using its big advertising budget to inform the public about the value of security systems.

“To have a major advertiser in the industry out there talking about products and services certainly will help,” he told Security Systems News.

He believes that once consumers learn about the products, they will turn not to telecom giant AT&T but to the smaller local companies that they trust. “I think the relationships that the smaller company has been able to build with those clients it far tighter-connected,” Loud said.

Few details are known about the AT&T plan, which was reported recently in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sue McCain, at AT&T’s corporate communications, told SSN in an email that “we aren’t commenting on this quite yet.”

But the newspaper said the new Digital Life Services division would be “the newest group under AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, the wireless arm of Dallas-based AT&T.” The new division is expected to employ hundreds of new workers, the newspaper reported.

According to another report from the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “the division will focus on services such as home security, home monitoring, home automation and control, home health care and personal energy management.”

Loud said he talked recently to an AT&T representative, who told him that the company planned to open its own monitoring station in Atlanta, operated by an industry member who previously worked for another central station. If that's the case, Loud believes it’s a positive sign for AT&T to adopt a traditional monitoring model instead of “trying to take the margin and service away from monitoring” by promoting do-it-yourself mobile devices.

He said he believes AT&T will get its offering under way in 2012.

Loud urges AT&T to join GELSSA.

“We certainly would be there to welcome any companies that are looking to do business in Georgia to get involved in the alarm association ... and to run a good ethical company in the state,” Loud told SSN.

Speaking as a dealer, Loud believes AT&T will have more of an impact on the large national and regional companies that do business in the state than on the smaller ones, which can tout their personal service with consumers.

“My feeling is security is about a relationship, and so much of how AT&T operates as a company is not about a relationship,” he said. “To me, they’re a company of ‘Let’s put you on hold and wait around most of the day until the truck shows up,’ so I don’t have the fear that is something that eliminates the small dealer.”

He acknowledged that with its huge subscriber base, AT&T can market its products and services very easily. “They’re sending that bill all the time and they have the ability to text and email offers to that base very cost-effectively,” Loud said.

However, he added, “to start to deploy [security] on a large scale … I don’t know. Try to get AT&T out to fix your DSL.” He noted that AT&T attempted to offer security in the past and wasn’t successful.

As it enters the security space, AT&T has lots of company from other telecoms. Comcast in 2010 launched a home monitoring and security solution and Verizon this year had a home security/home automation launch. Time Warner Cable and Frontier Communications also are now beta testing such products.