Editor's Angle: Making Lemonade out of Analog Cellular Service
Hope and Fiore addressed members of an Illinois Electronic Security Association meeting last month, and other groups also have heard their message: traditional cellular alarm communications are built on a service that cellular carriers will no longer be required to provide in just over a year from now.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set Feb. 18, 2008, for ending the requirement that cellular telephone carriers provide analog mobile phone service (AMPS). These carriers have been converting their networks to digital for years and will be allowed after that date to use the frequencies previously occupied by AMPS transmissions for digital cell phones.
Hope estimates that millions of alarm customers will be affected by the eventual phase-out of cellular AMPS, and will require conversion to digitally based cellular communicators, which just recently became available to installers.
Itâ€™s like looking at a glass half-empty or half-full: does the conversion to digital cellular, with a â€œdeadlineâ€ of next February, represent an encumbrance or an opportunity for dealers? It clearly will be both, because the logistics of simply contacting all of those customers, then arranging for replacement of their radio transmitters, will be a big project. But an opportunity also exists because it allows dealers to be in touch with customers that they may not have talked to in some time â€“ to educate them about rapidly evolving networks, to learn how their customersâ€™ requirements may have changed, to upsell.
In fact, itâ€™s an ideal time to begin thinking about the future of alarm communications altogether, and your service to your subscribers. The new generation of security customers is a mobile generation, Hope points out. Many donâ€™t even use a location-based land line for telephone service â€“ and they never will. Todayâ€™s generation of consumers is not only mobile, but is Internet-centered and e-mail-habituated.
As you begin to identify and compare replacement cellular radios, consider not only what technology will work over modern communication networks, but also how the next young, 30-something family or business manager will react when you explain how alarm signals are transmitted. Will they be satisfied with the way central stations notify them of alarm activity, or will they want to be more involved? I believe most will want immediate notification delivered to their mobile domain â€“ whether thatâ€™s a Blackberry or cell phone or iPod.
Because communications technologies have changed the world â€“ and your industry along with it.