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Shawn Welsh

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.

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.

Telguard offers dealers incentive to go to 3G

Protection from ‘2G sunset’ worth up to $25 per unit
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07/11/2012

ATLANTA—Telguard Corp. is backing its call for alarm companies to prepare for the “2G sunset” with a $5 million program that gives dealers up to $25 for every 2G cellular communicator they replace with a Telguard 3G/4G product.

Telguard step ahead of ‘2G sunset’

Company rolls out new 3G cell communicators, holds line on price
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02/14/2012

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.

ASIS 2011: News and notes from the show floor

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09/22/2011

ORLANDO, Fla.—There was plenty of news being made at ASIS 2011, which took place at the Orange County Convention Center Sept. 19-21. Below are some editor round-ups from ventured out onto the show floor to collect news and other goings-on.

Telular delivers manufacturer-agnostic, cellular, two-way voice solution

Says solution eliminates need for manufacturer-specific receivers
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08/25/2011

CHICAGO—Wireless connectivity solution provider Telular on Aug. 16 announced the availability of two-way voice over cellular using its Telguard TG-1 Express solution. According to Telular vice president of marketing and business development Shawn Welsh, the TG-1 Express will save time and money for central stations and dealers by becoming the one-stop shop for two-way voice communication from the panel to the central station.

Does AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile threaten the industry?

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03/24/2011

YARMOUTH, Maine—Ever since rumblings of a POTS sunset began last year, the security industry has been concerned with where a dependable communications pathway would come from. Most eyes have turned to broadband and GSM as two alternatives. With the March 20 announcement of AT&T’s agreement to buy competitor T-Mobile for $39 billion, a new wrinkle to the communications pathway has been introduced with which the security industry must contend, assuming the acquisition passes muster with the SEC.

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