With the move to discontinue the production of DVACS monitoring equipment, the monitoring industry – particularly in ULC fire alarm monitoring – has been forced to move to other forms of communication, which includes the use of cellular communications. When cellular communications were first utilized in the monitoring industry, equipment utilized the AMPS cellular network. This network was decommissioned in 2008, and the security and monitoring industry was forced to adopt a newer technology – 2G cellular transmission. This technology utilized General Packet Radio Service technology, and operated at speeds far superior to the AMPS network. This technology has been surpassed by 3G and now 4G/LTE technology, which you have likely heard of in television and radio advertisement, and offers high speed wireless communications.
Now that the 2G system has been surpassed 2 times over, it is suspected that we may be on the verge of another “sunset” period for the 2G cellular service. Indeed, in the United States, AT&T has announced a shutdown date of January 1, 2017 for this service. In Canada, security and monitoring providers generally utilize the Rogers cellular network for transmission, and while no formal announcement has been made, it is safe to assume that they will at some point follow AT&T’s lead in shutting down their 2G network as they continue to invest in their own high-speed offerings.
What does this mean? it means that over time, the cellular service on your monitored system may degrade as older 2G towers are replaced, and this may result in communications issues with your alarm system. In ULC-listed fire applications, using passive forms of monitoring, there is a back-up for of communication, which will mitigate the risk (For its active cellular communications, FMC only uses 3G technology). This does mean that in the next few years the 2G communicator you may be using as back-up must be replaced.
In the coming months, FMC will be in contact with all of our customers with regards to the looming 2G shutdown. We will be presenting you with options for a smooth transition to the 3G network (the network currently used by monitoring providers), which is expected to have a life expectancy into the mid- 2020’s, to ensure no “crunch time” issues will present themselves.