Telcos, GSM and POTS! Oh my!


What scary things will the future bring to security?

What scary things will the future bring to security?

It seems like all I’ve been blogging about lately are the scary goings-on in the worlds of the Telcos, GSM and POTS (hence my sort of out there titular reference to the scary things (”Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh my!”) Dorothy (in my sorta wacky metaphor, that’s you, faithful security industry readers) may or may not encounter on her way down the yellow brick road to Oz (that’s the unknown immediate future on the way to the sunny, eventual happily-ever-after that we all somehow believe in (perhaps naively)).

I wrote most recently about a lengthy GSM sunset discussion going on over at the Alarm Monitoring Group at Linked in. Before that I was speculating about Verizon. Just today, I received a comment on my colleague Martha’s recent telco-centered story on the latest telco partnerships.

The email was an unabridged version of a comment from Reliance Alarm Co.’s Lou Arellano, III. Lou, not surprisingly had a beef with SSN’s 500 character limit on story comments. Firstly, thanks Lou for sticking it out and getting your comments through via email. We appreciate your readership and attention.

Here’s what Lou had to say:

Telcos have been drooling over alarm service RMR for all of my 30 years in the business.

In the late 1980s (The “Old”) AT&T marketed a wireless system that it subsequently abandoned in the early 90’s. AT&T handed off the remainder of the 11-year statutory required repair support to a California company and left the market place altogether.

Bell of PA/Bell Atlantic entered the market in the ’80’s with an alarm transport system called REACT, which was designed to be UL compliant using a polling terminal at the head end and a Subscriber Terminal Unit (”STU”) at the subscriber premises. The signal was superimposed on a POTS line in similar manner to the current DSL, although the polls and data were audible bursts. The supervision shifted to a subaudible tone when the subscriber’s phone was off-hook. Had REACT been sufficiently reliable it might well have succeeded, but it only served to demonstrate and bring into sunshine the fact that the PSTN, even back then, was hardly up 24/7 although IMO was a lot more reliable than it is today. Unfortunately REACT itself, apart from the normal PSTN, had its own unique set of problems resulting more frequent and annoying outages than the problematic and costly copper leased lines it was supposed to replace. It created a lot of service calls and constant worry for us. (Déjà vu). REACT was phased out after a relatively short life cycle, partly due to the advent of cellular solutions.

Fortunately, these entries were focused on the manufacturing and transport modes, leaving the difficult and labor-intensive system design, sales, installation, monitoring and repair service to us.

There is little reason to think they will forget these lessons unless they can fully automate the central station process and make the system so reliable and so easy to deploy that a dedicated army of technicians and support people won’t be necessary; or the profits justify an extensive infrastructure, as observed with cellular phone service.

They should also be concerned about their existing transport revenues being yanked out or lost through attrition by angry alarm companies shifting to suppliers and technology that are not their direct competitors. (For example, I refuse to buy fuel oil from a fuel company that now sells alarms.)

Perhaps someone from the central station business will share their perspective with us?

An interesting contribution to the discussion, Lou. The thing to remember, and I feel you address this well, is that just because they’ve tried and failed before does not mean they will fail again. Telcos have changed and grown vis-a-vis power, influence and financing. The next try at security may very well see a telco “make the system so reliable and so easy to deploy that a dedicated army of technicians and support people won’t be necessary.” One never knows.

So how about it, central station readers? Do any of you have a perspective on all this you’d care to share?


<p>September 8th, 2010 at 9:53 am <br />
<br />
The plot thickens. I just got off the phone with a Telco that called asking for help with a problem that they are experiencing. They are losing business because potential clients will not switch to their VoIP service unless the alarm system can be made to work.<br />
<br />
Think about that for a moment. It could be the reason that our industry has not suffered attrition on a much larger scale by monitored subscribers switching to VoIP. Today, subscribers still have the luxury of making that choice.</p>
<p>On this occasion, the Telco had no interest in getting into the business of monitoring alarms, so when I explained that they could switch customers to their VoIP service yet have alarms sent to the Customers existing Monitoring Center without them even knowing anything had changed, it was a done deal.</p>
<p>That&rsquo;s a win for the Telco, a win for the Customer and a win for the Monitoring Centers (whoever they may be).</p>