AT&T’s 2G shutdown in Oakland false alarm for industry

Frequency blackout didn’t affect alarm companies, CAA says
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

OAKLAND, Calif.—AT&T’s move to partially disable its 2G service here at the end of August got the attention of California Alarm Association members, but the frequency blackout did not affect operations in the field, according to CAA Executive Director Jerry Lenander.

AT&T, which announced on Aug. 3 that it would phase out its 2G networks nationwide by 2017, temporarily shut down its 850 MHz frequency on 16 cell towers in Oakland after city officials notified the company that the towers were disrupting police radio communications.

Oakland and the Federal Communications Commission had been investigating problems with the city’s public safety network and mapped the locations of the radio blackouts. The FCC confirmed the cell tower interference on Aug. 16 and AT&T agreed to the 850 MHz shutdown the next day.

CAA members quickly became aware of the blackout, Lenander said, but any fears that AT&T was cutting into alarm coverage as part of the 2G “sunset” were soon alleviated. The towers continued to emit signals at 700 MHz and 1900 MHz.

“The people I talked to were aware of it and they did some checking on their systems,” Lenander told Security Systems News. “They didn’t expect it to have an impact and they haven’t seen any issues with it.”

Most of the 2G alarm communicators deployed nationwide rely on AT&T’s networks and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), the technology being phased out by the company. The life span of 2G products based on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) is expected to be longer, with a sunset projected early in the next decade.

Lenander said CAA members were briefed on the 2G sunset three years ago by Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, at the CAA’s winter convention in San Francisco.

“We had a standing-room-only group in there to hear about the changes that were coming down the road,” Lenander said. “We may do something more on it for the [2012] winter convention if there is a need for it. Communication is always the key issue.”