Voice Over What--?
Many of our Monitoring customers use a phone line from their panel to communicate with the Central Monitoring Station (CMS). This is generally a very reliable and inexpensive way of monitoring an alarm system- our standard digital monitoring, for example, costs as little as $9.95 per month!
In the past several years, however, new telecommunications technology has created several issues with phone line monitoring, which you should be aware of. Among the most important of these is the gradual transition that telephone and telecommunications companies are making from the old analog phone lines to a new technology, called "Voice over Internet Protocol", or VoIP for short. If the phone line that your panel is using to communicate to the CMS is a VoIP line, then your panel may not be able to communicate with the CMS as easily, if at all!
Why is this?
Well, it is similar in many ways to the switch from analog TV broadcasts to digital broadcasting. With an analog phone line, signals from the panel are sent to the monitoring station as a series of DTMF tones. The automated CMS receives these tones, which tells it the panel's account and the type of alarm it is sending.
What VoIP does, however, is that it takes the tones from the panel and digitizes them; that is, takes the tones that the panel is trying to send and turns them into tiny chunks of data (packets). When these packets reach the CMS, they arrive in a generally random order. The automated CMS cannot process these signals as it needs to receive the information from your alarm system in a logical order and so it ignores them. This can cause serious difficulties for panel-to-CMS communication. Older panels are simply not designed for VoIP.
How do you tell if you have VoIP?
Well, if you have a telecom bundle from a major provider such as Brighthouse, Time Warner, Cox, Clear Wireless, Comcast, or AT&T, it most likely includes VoIP telephone service. If in doubt call your service provider to find out. Some other VoIP providers are: Vonage, OOMA, MagicJack, Skype. Often times this VOIP service is referred to as Digital Phone or Voice Over Coax.
So, what to do?
You can either keep an older alarm system and use the older analog technology for as long as possible, or upgrade to new panels, such as the GE Simon XT or the Lynx Touch and Vista 21iP panels, that use either cellular wireless or internet connection to communicate with the monitoring station. Not only do these options offer more communications, they also give the user unparalleled options for using their system, such as arming and disarming from a computer, viewing system events and alarms remotely (even from your iPhone, Android or Blackberry!), and configuring their system through an online connection. We offer cellular monitoring for as little as $19.95 per month! Check out our Security Advisor for your upgrade options.