Your Alarm and Your Phone
The most important job your alarm does is communicate an emergency to authorities. Your alarm needs a stable, reliable means of communication to best protect you. Presently, there are 4 ways your alarm can call and get you help, and field experience has shown that some are better than others. From best (most reliable) to worst (least reliable), these are:
( 1 ) Cellular
A cellular (or radio) transmitter is the most secure way for your alarm to send emergency signals. Cellular is nearly impossible for burglars to defeat since it does not depend on local telephone lines. Cellular is used both to back up regular phone lines and as a replacement for them when there is no telephone connection on the premises. Adding cellular service to your alarm requires additional equipment and an additional monthly fee. Click here for pricing on the NX591E.
( 2 ) Plain Old Telephone Service (also know as “POTS”)
Plain Old Telephone Service is the traditional phone line run over land-based networks like Bellsouth. Available almost anywhere, this is the form of communications for which most telephony devices (including alarms) were designed and still provides the most reliable telephone connection. Either alone or with cellular backup, this is your best bet for alarm communications.
( 3 ) Voice Over IP (also known as VOIP, “Digital Phone”, “Broadband Phone”)
Voice Over Internet Protocol uses a broadband internet connection to make phone calls. The most popular VOIP services include Vonage, Lingo, and Time Warner’s digital phone service. At this point VOIP has proven sometimes unreliable for alarm communication and is often installed in a way that interferes with phone line seizure (see below). VOIP is therefore not recommended as a sole alarm communication. Instead, we recommend you either use a POTS Line or have us install a cellular backup unit if you are using VOIP service. However we do have many customers using Vonage and Time Warner’s digital phone service.
( 4 ) DSL
Digital Subscriber Line combines broadband internet with phone service. Most DSL installations are performed by the customer (“self-installation”), which is basically the phone company (a) mailing you a modem box and requiring you to install a filter on every telephone, fax machine, satellite receiver, etc. and (b) flooding your phone wires with high-speed Internet data (making it impossible for phone equipment to work without those filters). We strongly recommend you do not perform a self installation. Instead, require your DSL provider split the phone line (POTS line) and Internet (data) line outside at the phone box. You will then have two connections outside your house: one for phone, one for Internet. Your phone wires will then carry only the kind of signals your phone (and alarm) equipment was designed to recognize. Unless you have the POTS line split outside your house, there is a risk of the security system not communicating with our monitoring center. If self installed (un-split) DSL is your only choice for Internet connection, then a special alarm DSL filter is recommended. This filter is made specifically for security systems and is not like the filters mailed to you by DSL providers or available at Radio Shack. Failure to properly install an alarm DSL filter results in loss of telephone line seizure (see below). Professional installation of the alarm DSL filter involves a fee, and a return trip charge if done after your initial alarm installation. Click here for pricing on the DSL filter kit.
DSL vs. Cable Internet: DSL service is broadband Internet service that runs through your telephone lines and can interfere with telephone communications if it is not split at the box or filters are not installed properly. Cable Internet is a broadband Internet service that runs through your cable TV lines; it is therefore separate from your telephone service and does not interfere with your telephone line.
Cable Internet vs. Cable Phone Service: Field experience shows cable to be the most reliable and trouble-free broadband Internet service. This service does not interfere with the alarm system because it runs through your cable TV lines separate of your phone service. However, many cable companies also offer phone service (VOIP service); this is not recommended as a communication method for alarm panels because of problems with both installation and reliability.
Telephone Line Seizure: This is a form of connection that gives alarm signals priority use of the phone line. Even if a telephone line is malfunctioning, off the hook, or broken on the premises, your alarm can still make the emergency call because it is connected directly to the phone service at the phone box. Proper Telephone Line Seizure connection is critical for proper alarm communications.