Telguard step ahead of ‘2G sunset’

Company rolls out new 3G cell communicators, holds line on price
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CHICAGO—The “2G sunset” is coming—it’s just hard to say when. But the 2G fade-out has already begun, eating into the frequency spectrum and posing a threat to the effectiveness of cellular alarm communicators.

Like analog before it, 2G technology—most commonly GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)—is destined to become a technological footnote. The exact date for the “sunset” will not be determined by the Federal Communications Commission or other government agency; it will determined by cellular carriers based on capacity constraints and customer demand for 3G.

That has injected a degree of uncertainty about the time frame, with the earliest projections putting the sunset four or five years down the road. But the end result is not in doubt: 2G will fade to black.

As it is phased out, devices that rely on 2G will gradually lose their effectiveness due to the “harvesting” of frequency spectrum by cellular carriers. The bottom line for alarm dealers is that the lower frequency band most effective at penetrating buildings is increasingly being allocated for 3G purposes, cutting into signal strength for 2G equipment.

To get ahead of the curve, Telular Corp. has rolled out a 3G line of cellular alarm communicators for residential, commercial and PERS users. Shawn Welsh, vice president of marketing and business development, said six products in the Telguard line are already shipping in 3G, with an added benefit for dealers: The price is the same as 2G.

“The financial impact—rolling trucks, replacing equipment—it’s an expensive proposition,” Welsh told Security Systems News. “We made the decision to completely eliminate 2G and to offer 3G at the same price (because) 3G products do cost more. … Now our security dealers can just install a Telguard product and not have to make the false choice between inexpensive 2G hardware and the longevity offered by 3G.”

Welsh said 3G’s life in the field is important considering that 20 percent of alarm system installations in the United States today are based on cellular technology. Replacing equipment in the event of a 3G sunset could carry costs comparable to 2G’s decline, but Welsh said he doesn’t see that happening any time soon.

“4G is a rebranded 3G,” he said. “Networks being built out now as strictly 4G are just faster 3G, and the change in speed isn’t important as it relates to our industry. By installing 3G communicators, you’re really installing products that are based on the technology that is being deployed for the next 10 or 20 years.”

Bruce Mungiguerra, vice president of sales and dealer development for Monitronics, said that although the 2G sunset probably won’t occur until 2016 at the earliest, dealers would be wise to move sooner rather than later.

“This is a very serious concern for Monitronics and the whole industry, because the replacement of radios will be a financial hit to all security companies,” he told SSN. “The quicker the switch to 3G, the fewer radios that Monitronics and authorized dealers will have to replace when 2G technology goes away. With many homeowners eliminating POTS lines, we’re forced to add cellular communicators to current customers’ homes in order to continue to provide them with their security protection.”

Welsh said the message that Telular is sending to dealers is that the only way to turn over tens of thousands of installations from the old technology to the new technology is to start planning now.

“You don’t want to be the guy who’s stuck in four or so years looking at having to do 64,000 truck rolls,” he said.