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

Frequency blackout didn’t affect alarm companies, CAA says
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09/05/2012

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.

Attention shoppers! AT&T goes retail with its new security/home automation services

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

I reported in May that AT&T was entering the security space with summer trials in Dallas and in Atlanta of its home security/home automation services called Digital Life. The telecom also spoke then of its plans to transform that space through such innovations as letting customers try out its new Digital Life offering in its 2,000-plus retail stores around the country.

Now, the first demos of Digital Life are about to begin in AT&T’s first flagship retail store on Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile, the company announced today.

The 10,000-square foot store will open this Saturday, Sept. 1. AT&T said that among the products and services “also found at AT&T’s more than 2,300 retail stores nationwide, the Michigan Avenue store offers customers a glimpse of the future, including AT&T’s first retail demos of the new AT&T Digital Life home security and automation services and of a connected car that shows how wireless technology can aid driving. … With more than 100 digital screens throughout the space, every aspect of the store is designed to educate customers about future wireless technologies and services.”

According to the company, the demos will be in the “Family Life” area of the store. “Customers can see how the services will enable them to adjust the temperature, raise and lower a window shade, and control their home using AT&T wireless devices,” the company said.

“Our Michigan Avenue store is where customers can immerse themselves in everything AT&T is about and truly explore the technology we have to offer,” said Paul Roth, president of AT&T retail sales and service, in a prepared statement. “AT&T is about delivering innovation that makes a difference in our customers’ daily lives. All of that will be ready for customers to experience at our flagship store.”

AT&T: 2017 end of the line for 2G

Cell carrier’s ‘sunset’ for GSM will force upgrade to 3G and 4G radios
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08/15/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—AT&T will phase out its 2G networks by 2017, setting a long-anticipated timeline for the “sunset” of the technology and giving the alarm industry a target date to upgrade cellular equipment.

3G vs. 4G: AT&T’s ‘sunset’ fuels debate

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

While AT&T has finally set a date and ended the discussion over when it will push 2G into the sunset, the points of contention grow sharper over 3G versus 4G and the merits of each for cellular alarm communication.

Boiling down the argument to its simplest terms, this much is clear: Technology touted as 4G is faster and more expensive. But is that extra speed worth the money, and more importantly for alarm dealers, will it contribute to longevity in the field? And what is “real” 4G anyway?

On Monday, I talked with two industry experts who couldn’t be further apart on the issue: Gordon Hope, general manager of AlarmNet at Honeywell, and Shawn Welsh, vice president of marketing and business development for Telguard. Both made what seemed to be valid arguments, although I confess I’m not qualified to comment on the technical merits of each. What I can do is define HSPA (High Speed Packet Access), HSPA+ (evolved HSPA), and LTE (Long Term Evolution), and offer a bit of what each man had to say:

Hope: “I don’t know whether it’s accidental or intentional, but it seems like our industry is mixing 3G and 4G together in one sentence. In reality, there’s clearly a difference—the carriers delineate it. HSPA+ and LTE from AT&T’s perspective are legitimate 4G technologies, and everything else isn’t.”

Welsh: “At a recent webinar, AT&T and Qualcomm both basically reiterated this statement: 4G is the same as 3G, it just costs more. To get down to the letter version of that, HSPA+ is the same thing as HSPA as it relates to longevity, it’s just that HSPA+ costs more.”

Hope: “We believe the best thing to do is to move up and provide a 4G radio, not stopping at 3G. HSPA+ is a 4G technology … it’s just plain faster. In AT&T’s announcement [about 2G], they even made statements that a third of their postpaid subscriber base is already using 4G technology, not 3G. That speaks to the fact that if you’re not thinking about 4G, you’re probably going to leave yourself shortchanged if you stopped at 3G network capability in the radio module you chose. We went through the additional expense to include HSPA+ 4G technology in our radio. We believe it’s going to directly translate into longevity on the wall.”

Welsh: “There’s a thought that 4G is somehow better than 3G and that somehow it will be around longer, because certainly each generation will be around longer than the previous generation. In this case it’s a misnomer, because 4G as it relates to HSPA+ is really a marketing trick, unfortunately. … What happened was that AT&T and Verizon both went out and bought up spectrum in order to deploy real 4G called LTE. And 4G LTE got a certain level of throughput—it was really fast. Well, T-Mobile did not get spectrum, so they were stuck having to advertise 3G when their major competitors were going to start advertising true 4G LTE. So they simply did what a marketing organization might do. They just said, ‘Hey, you know what? This new 3G HSPA+ is so fast it goes just as fast as that LTE they’re going to deploy, so you know what we’re going to do? Let’s just call ourselves 4G. All that really matters is the speed anyway.’ So overnight they rebranded themselves as 4G in order to compete with the marketing term of 4G LTE. And literally that’s what happened. AT&T was forced to start calling their HSPA+ network— which was really just a 3G network—a 4G network in order to compete with the marketing spin T-Mobile was putting on things. And that’s how we got 4G as it relates to HSPA+.”

Hope went on to say that while speed traditionally hasn’t been important to the alarm industry, it will play a bigger role in attracting future generations of consumers who will be loading their tablets and smartphones with security applications and a whole lot more. Welsh reiterated that longevity will remain the top priority for alarm dealers, and “from a cost standpoint, HSPA+ is a more expensive solution for the exact same longevity.”

For the record, the International Telecommunication Union states on its website that the only “true 4G technologies” are LTE Advanced and WirelessMAN Advanced, neither of which has been deployed on a large scale. The ITU goes on to say, however, that the term 4G may also be applied “to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third-generation systems now deployed.”

That sounds like a gray area open to commercial and consumer interpretation, but there's no arguing this point: Alarm dealers with radios on AT&T’s 2G networks will have to upgrade by 2017 or they’ll be left in the dark. The fadeout due to spectrum harvesting will accelerate before then, so sooner is probably better than later. Then it's just a question of sorting out the Gs.

Sizing up the competition

Go small for better service and big for better pricing? It’s not always that easy when comparing central stations
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08/07/2012

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
That pearl of wisdom from baseball legend Satchel Paige could very well be applied to the world of wholesale alarm monitoring. The competition is fierce and getting fiercer, raising the stakes for central stations of all sizes. Dissatisfaction over real or perceived problems can prompt a dealer to jump ship, costing a company a chunk of RMR and maybe even a bit of its reputation.

Double take on 2G: Readers see 'sunset' differently

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If nothing else, last week's blog on the 2G sunset served to toss another log on the fire in the debate over how long the technology will last in the face of frequency harvesting by carriers. Among the responses I received was an argument that 2G will remain viable in part due to CDMA-based equipment, which could stick around a lot longer than its GPRS and GMS cousins.

"I was reading your 2G sunset blog this morning and wanted to point out that many cellular alarm solution providers support T-Mobile USA or other 2G carriers along with AT&T Wireless coverage," said the reader, who said I could pass along his remarks on condition of anonymity. "AT&T is the carrier making the most noise about phasing out 2G GPRS, but T-Mobile has no current plans to sunset. Also, CDMA-based carriers like Verizon and Sprint still have a long planned life for 2G CDMA."

The reader agreed that the issue is critical for the industry, saying the majority of cellular alarm systems currently deployed utilize 2G GPRS on AT&T. But he took issue with the terminology being used and urged others to do the same.

"While AT&T-based cellular alarm providers certainly have the largest marketing presence, please be careful referring to the AT&T GPRS sunset as a '2G sunset,' because many 2G alarm solutions will stay viable for a long time," he said.

Another reader, Steve Wallace, called attention to the fact that just because no carrier has announced a date for the sunset, it doesn't mean it's not going to happen. He said the process has already begun and commented that companies not paying heed "may be looking at this wrong."

"For quite a while some carriers, such as AT&T, have stopped certifying new 2G devices," Wallace said. "Carriers have begun to re-purpose [refarm] the 2G spectrum into LTE offerings. 2G equipment is retiring and is being replaced for 4G. 3G expansion has virtually ceased."

The reality for alarm companies is that signal strength will decline for a lot of equipment in the field as these changes take hold.

"Alarm systems with 2G radios could become more problematic long before 'sunset' is announced," he said.

Like I mentioned last week, a sunset date by AT&T would likely knock a lot of people off the fence if they've been considering a move to 3G/4G. All is quiet at the moment, but it would be shortsighted to think it’s going to stay that way. Alarm companies would be wise to plan accordingly and keep a sharp eye on the horizon.

Lights out for 2G? 'Sunset' debate heats up

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Still looking for clarity about the “2G sunset” and whether you’ll be left holding the bag if you don’t upgrade your cellular alarm communicators to 3G (or even 4G) right now?   

You’re not alone. The buzz continued last month at ESX, with manufacturers jockeying to try to sway alarm dealers. Telguard, the company sounding the loudest warning about the sunset, went one step further by announcing a program that gives dealers up to $25 for every 2G cell communicator they replace with a Telguard 3G/4G product. The company does not sell 2G.

“We estimate the industry has 3 million 2G radios that will have to be replaced in the next five years,” said Shawn Welsh, vice president of marketing and business development for Telguard.

Unlike AMPS, the date for the 2G sunset will not be determined by the FCC; it will determined by cellular carriers based on capacity constraints and customer demand for 3G. Carriers have already begun reallocating frequency spectrum to accommodate 3G, Welsh said, cutting into the effectiveness of 2G equipment.

But not everyone believes the sky is falling when it comes to 2G, at least not in the next few years. Among those taking a different approach is Mike Boyle, general manager of Uplink. The company is continuing to offer 2G lines while rolling out 4G at the same time.

“People are still buying a lot of 2G products,” he said. “We think we may continue to sell 2G beyond the third quarter of this year. Everything we see in the network says it will be around.”

Uplink backs its business plan with the following assertions on its website:

—2G is a proven technology with falling price points as manufacturing costs decrease.
—No carrier has announced a sunset date for its 2G network.
—Uplink’s communicators operate with multiple carriers and will continue to provide nationwide coverage late into the decade or longer.

The company also offers a lifetime guarantee to replace its 2G products with 4G if the 2G units fail to operate due to a carrier technology change. Boyle said the approach covers all bases by recognizing the realities of the marketplace.

“Requests for 4G are minimal,” he said. “When a guy asks for 4G, we ship 4G. But our business is still 98 percent 2G.”

An industry source who spoke to Security Systems News on condition of anonymity said a sunset announcement from AT&T would be made “in the next few months,” which could knock a lot of people off the fence if they’ve been considering a move to 3G/4G. But longevity is key for alarm dealers, and if they can hang onto their 2G gear for another year or two (or four), many probably will.

It’s the nature of the beast.

Security providers early winners in home automation/home security space

But telecoms and cable companies also are ‘in it to win’ and shouldn’t be discounted, an industry analyst says
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05/29/2012

DALLAS—Security providers have a “first mover” advantage in home automation/home security right now, but the big telecoms and cable companies entering the space are serious competitors who may be game-changers in the future, according to a market research company analyst.

Lowe’s home automation/home security launch near

The giant retailer’s offering will help grow the mass appeal of such services, a new report says
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05/22/2012

MOOREVILLE, N.C.—Lowe’s, the world’s second-largest home-improvement retailer, is expected to launch its new home automation/home security service soon.

AT&T ‘bullish’ on security

The company says it’s poised to not only compete in the home security/home automation market, but grow it too
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05/16/2012

DALLAS—AT&T isn’t just entering the security space with trials here and in Atlanta this summer of its home security/home automation service. The telecom also believes it will be able to transform that space through such innovations as letting customers try out its new Digital Life product in its more than 2,000 retail stores around the country, an AT&T executive told Security Systems News.

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