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New year, new urgency on AT&T's 2G sunset

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One of the most newsworthy items for the alarm industry in 2012 was AT&T’s announcement that it will shut down 2G service by Jan. 1, 2017. Everyone knew the day was coming, but there had been a lot of speculation in the field about exactly when cellular equipment would need to be upgraded to stay ahead of the sunset.

With the uncertainty gone, the industry now faces the reality of swapping millions of devices that use AT&T’s GSM/GPRS network. Choices must be made that involve assessing the longevity, coverage and cost of competing technologies. The larger the company, the larger the stakes.

SSN covered developments on the 2G sunset throughout 2012, presenting opinions from industry experts and a few rebuttals about the best path for dealers to take. For those still unsure about which way to go, a summation of options is provided by Syed Zaeem Hosain, chief technical officer at Aeris Communications, in the latest issue of CSAA Dispatch. Here’s what he had to say:

Change service to T-Mobile. It may be possible to move service from AT&T to T-Mobile by swapping the SIM [card] inside devices. This requires a truck roll. Furthermore, T-Mobile will also remove 2G eventually. Thus, this option only delays the inevitable by about two years; however, it allows additional time for implementing other options. It could require two truck rolls: one to replace the SIM soon, and another to replace the 2G GSM device later.
 

Replace with 3G HSPA. Alarm device suppliers are making new 3G HSPA devices. However, the HSPA coverage is much smaller than GPRS and, in time, HSPA spectrum also will need to be swapped for LTE. Thus, there is likely to be an “HSPA sunset” starting in about seven to eight years. This sunset would be worse, since the number of deployed alarm units will be much higher.

Replace with 2G CDMA. Alarm device suppliers have not yet supported this option, though it is likely the best. CDMA carriers have committed to 10-plus years of service longevity, and the 1xRTT coverage is better than GSM. Given the lower cost of 1xRTT radios and the large number of deployed 1xRTT applications in other industries (notably automotive and trucking) supporting the technology, using 1xRTT for alarm units makes sense.

Replace with 4G LTE. Deploying LTE devices is not viable for the alarm industry today. Radio costs are very high, and coverage is simply not sufficient for national deployments. Both will improve in time, but not at a pace that makes it a viable replacement option today. Carriers have not yet worked out LTE roaming agreements—these also will take time. Most importantly, the spectrum fragmentation for LTE means that current-generation LTE radios are single band (dedicated for use on a single carrier when in LTE mode). This is too restrictive, since these units can never be moved from one carrier to another.

Whichever route is chosen, it should be noted that the four-year window is a best-case scenario. Frequency harvesting is expected to dilute AT&T’s 2G coverage well before the sunset, with constraints already being reported in some areas. While the best choice for dealers seems to vary depending on who—or which manufacturer—you talk to, one thing is clear: Procrastination is no longer an option.

William Cooper, chairman of multiple CSAA committees, dies at home

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12/13/2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—William “Bill” Cooper IV died peacefully at home on Dec. 4, 2012, surrounded by loved ones.

Are you getting all you can out of your dispatchers?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Picture the perfect world for a monitoring manager: Every dispatcher takes every call efficiently and professionally, with no need for motivation beyond a paycheck and the satisfaction of a job well done. There are no prizes, awards, back-patting or cajoling, saving you time, money and maybe even a bit of your hairline.

If your central station has a work force that rises to that level, congratulations. Chances are, though, that no matter how many self-motivators you have, you also have employees who are content to just do their time—punch in, punch out, repeat. Maybe the work they’re doing can be considered satisfactory, but that’s not going to cut it in an industry that is getting more competitive by the day.

So how do you get those staffers to take it up a notch to help themselves and your company? To answer that question, the CSAA has recruited Amy Becht and Michelle Lindus, central station managers for Vivint, to share their expertise in a Dec. 12 webinar titled “Measuring Performance for Excellence.”

The session will focus on what the CSAA calls “the nuanced art and science” of measuring and improving staff performance. That includes assessing objective and subjective customer call metrics, promoting professionalism among dispatchers, and implementing incentives. Becht and Lindus will highlight some of the best practices employed by Vivint, which was named 2012 Central Station of the Year by the CSAA.

Becht, honored as the CSAA’s Manager of the Year, oversees monitoring at Vivint’s central station in St. Paul, Minn. She talked about home security in SSN’s “How I Use My System” feature in the September 2012 issue. Lindus is manager of Vivint’s central station in Provo, Utah.

The webinar will run from 1 to 2 p.m. EST and is free for CSAA members. Click here to register or go to www.csaaintl.org.

CSAA honors Ed Bonifas and Bud Wulforst

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11/06/2012

VIENNA, Va.—Ed Bonifas, immediate past president of the Central Station Alarm Association, recently received the 2012 Stanley C. Lott Award, the group’s top honor. Bud Wulforst, a past president of the CSAA, received the President’s Award.

2G sun starting to set in Arizona

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking for signs of the 2G sunset? Don’t blink.

That was the message today from Telguard’s Shawn Welsh, who notified CSAA members via the group’s ACCENT email service that AT&T has begun to pull the shade on Arizona’s Pinal and Gila counties.

“For those of you with cellular customers in Arizona, AT&T has announced that there will be no roaming network available to 2G GSM/GPRS-only cellular devices using [the company’s] 410 SIMs—they are often yellow in color—in Pinal and Gila counties starting on Nov. 1, 2012,” Welsh wrote.

If you struggle to keep pace with the calendar—and I am among you—that means next Thursday.

Welsh said he and his counterparts at other cellular equipment companies made a promise at the CSAA’s annual meeting, held Oct. 12-17 in Hawaii, to keep the industry informed about pockets of lost 2G coverage “as soon as we were notified by our carrier partners.”

“Having just returned this week, this one is beating the official CSAA process,” he wrote.

Welsh advised anyone with customers in the two counties to contact their cellular manufacturer for official confirmation from AT&T and a coverage map to determine if their units are affected.

“Only your cellular device manufacturer (or waiting until next Thursday—not recommended) can advise you of your potential loss of service,” he said.

Welsh said Telguard customers should not notice a change “as we do not use 410 SIMs in our [legacy] 2G or 3G devices.” For those affected by the AT&T announcement, “you’ll need to roll trucks next week and replace the units with a device operating on a 3G/4G network,” he said.
 

ADS acquires Golden Triangle

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10/11/2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—ADS Security announced today it has acquired the accounts and related assets of Golden Triangle Security Alliance in Columbus, Miss., according to a company statement.

Pro 1 plans to expand I-View to include hosted video

CEO Don Young sees service eventually migrating to residential space
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10/10/2012

ROMEOVILLE, Ill., and LAS VEGAS—Protection 1 officially introduced I-View Now, its new cloud-based video verification service, a few weeks ago at ASIS. But Pro 1’s Don Young is so convinced that it’s going to be a winner, he’s planning to expand the offer to include hosted video by the end of the year.

'Last big bite' in fight against false dispatches

SIAC director says alarm industry needs to step up and properly train customers
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10/10/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—A conversation at the 2012 Electronic Security Expo in Nashville reminded Ron Walters just how far the alarm industry has to go on the home front to reduce false dispatches.

Help the CSAA track trends in monitoring

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What are central stations doing to keep up with times—and the competition—when it comes to technology, reducing false alarms and other issues of importance to the industry?

The Central Station Alarm Association would like to know.

The CSAA is looking for help in tracking technology trends and investments in personnel at monitoring centers across the country. The goal is to establish a databank “that will be useful in benchmarking performance” in the industry, according to CSAA Executive Vice President Steve Doyle.

The topics range from the basics—the number of accounts that a central handles and the certifications it has—to specifics about advanced technologies and operational policies. PERS, GPS-assisted calls, UL2050 accounts, video monitoring, video-verified alarms, ASAP protocols and employee training procedures—it’s all covered.

It’s important information that will allow the CSAA to see where the monitoring industry is and where it’s heading. The 25-question survey is also easy to complete—I filled out a placebo version in five minutes, faster than the refs could sort out a holding call in the Pats-Ravens game.

To complete the survey, click here. Participants will receive an executive summary of the findings, which will be released publicly Nov. 11-13 at the CSAA Fall Operations Management Seminar in Fairfax, Va.
 

Jensby back in industry at San Jose-based RFI

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09/12/2012

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Mary Jensby, formerly central station and data entry director for Monitronics, has been named call center director at RFI Communications & Security Systems, an integration and monitoring company based here.

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