Counting down the days of analog

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

YARMOUTH, Maine--There are just four days left before the analog network shuts down on Feb. 18, and while no one knows what will happen in the days following the sunset date, our friends north of the border have experienced a sampling of what may lay ahead.
Roger's Wireless, a major Canadian cellular carrier, shut down its analog service on May 31, 2007 with other carriers expected to follow suit later in the year. "These type of situations are never smooth," said Frank Pietrobono, president of the Canadian Security Association. "A lot of dealers waited until the last minute and were scrambling around in May and June trying to convert to a GSM solution."
Despite all the scrambling, however, Pietrobono said the association "didn't hear of any situations of alarms not working and customers in danger" or of extensive alarm outages after the network was shut down. He associates the absence of problems to the fact that "most cellular systems are backup so the radio would only be activated if the telephone line was cut."
But, he said, Canadian dealers are preparing for a second and perhaps more consequential round to the AMPS saga when Bell Canada begins its strategic shut down of the analog network. "Bell and its affiliates announced that they were going to continue coverage of the AMPs network until later on this year and then do a strategic shut down based on province," said Pietrobono. "Canadians have been given a window to go and switch out what's remaining on the analog network."
Bud Wulforst, president of the Central Station Alarm Association, said he doesn't expect Monday will be a particularly eventful day. "For CSAA members anyway, I think they'll get a few calls on Monday that systems aren't communicating, but it won't be that big of a deal," he said. "I don't think anyone has converted 100 percent of their customers, ... but when you get down to the last five percent it gets tough." While Wulforst is fairly confident about the preparedness of larger companies, he said he is concerned about the smaller ones. "I think it may be a big deal for some of the smaller guys," he said. "I don't have any hard figures, but apparently some or many of the smaller dealers have not reached out to their customers, so, for them, there might be quite a lot of activity on Monday."
The saving grace for any company still trying to convert its customers may be the time it takes cellular carriers to shut its analog network down. "It doesn't look like the whole country is going down in one day; it's our understanding that it will be done in phases," said Wulforst. "We don't know if that means months or more, but I don't think it will all hit the fan on Monday."
As for any companies still scrambling to make the sunset date, Wulforst said, "If they're scrambling now, it's too late; they should've been scrambling months ago."