An astounding and unexpected number of people are dropping their (POTS) plain old telephone system, for the latest trends in phone service, VoIP. According to Frost & Sullivan there were 100,000 VoIP users at the end of 2003. Just halfway through 2004 the number jumped to more than 500,000.
The draw to such a change is most often cost related. Traditional phone companies charge use fees and by the minute charges, coupled with long distance fees. VoIP companies are charging a flat fee somewhere between $15.00 to $30.00 US per month, for unlimited calls to anywhere in the US and Canada.
VoIP works by digitizing voice signals from your phone and sending them over the Internet via your home or business computer. While people are scrambling to make the switch and begin to count the money they are saving, they may not realize that there is a good possibility that they are cutting the link between their alarm system and the monitoring station. Another link that is lost in most cases is traditional 911 services, as VoIP does not capture data for emergency response.
When your alarm goes off due to an attempted break in, is no time to find out that the monitoring response that you have been faithfully paying for is not available for you. The Alarm Company has no way of knowing that you switched services. You should be sending a test signal monthly, to assure yourself that the system is working properly, no matter who you are connected through. Be advised that if you are using VoIP and the signal goes through, it does not mean that it will always be as clear. The volume of traffic on the Internet can and will vary the quality of the digitized signal it sends.
If you find yourself intrigued by this revolution in phone services and are dependent on alarm system dispatch as part of your security plan, you should consider the pitfalls and options.
* If power fails to the premise it is likely that your VoIP will fail also, unless your PC has a backup power source.
* You may not be able to use 911 services.
* Your signal may go through giving you a false sense of security, as it may not work next time.
* You may have already switched to VoIP and not realize that your alarm is not being monitored.
I myself have elected to utilize VoIP to save money on long distance. I also maintain a standard limited use phone line to take care of my security communications, 911 and phone backup should power fail. The (limited use) phone line, cost me less than $15.00 per month and is offset by the savings on my long distance bill.
Cellular communicators are available that will make your alarm call over any available cellular network. The device will have to be purchased for about $200.00 to $500.00, and an additional fee of approximately $10.00 per month is added to your monitoring bill.
Some alarm companies offer radio signal transmitted monitoring services, which do not depend on phone lines of any sort to transmit your alarm signal. The availability of such services is limited and depends where you live.
Alarm companies of all sizes are working with manufactures and providers of VoIP services to find ways to properly integrate Alarm Systems with these phone communications industry changes. I would expect many changes in the near future as this does not seem to be a passing fad. Be on the lookout for information on these changes, so that you can always make an informed decision.