Slow migration of Alarm Systems away from POTS

As much as we'd like every alarm monitoring subscriber to migrate their system to IP using an IP module or new panel, the alarm industry has to accept that this is simply not going to happen any time soon. It's difficult for subscribers to accept that their alarm equipment is no longer capable of sending signals reliably to the monitoring center using either POTS or VoIP.


Session Initiation Protocol, referred to as SIP, is the technology used in Voice over IP (VoIP) networks. What many in the Security industry do not understand is that SIP is also used when a POTS line is switched to VoIP without the subscriber, Dealer or Central Station's knowledge. As soon as SIP is introduced into the alarm signal path, things like codec selection and DTMF settings can wreak havoc with alarm transmission. If an alarm receiver is attempting to receive signals on the end of a POTS line, which is almost always the case, there is little that can be done to combat the VoIP problem. The use of SIP Trunking however, presents an opportunity to solve the problem for DTMF based alarm formats like Contact ID.


Like any new technology in the industry, I think there will be misconceptions and confusion in the early days. The acronym VoIP is a negative one because of the problems it has caused with signal transmission. SIP, more commonly referred to as SIP Trunking, will probably be viewed as a cool new technology that has the potential to release Central Stations from the POTS shackles. The misconception will be that SIP is somehow different to VoIP.


A fair number of Centrals already use VoIP for voice calls but it's likely that less than 1% would be using SIP trunks to receive alarm signals. This "should" increase steadily over the coming decade, but like everything in our industry, it will more likely move at a snail's pace. The fact that there will not be a POTS sunset and phone lines will be migrated to IP "on the quiet", means that there will be no urgency for Centrals to switch from POTS to SIP.


Failures to communicate because subscribers "POTS' lines have been switched to IP without their knowledge will continue to haunt the industry. Subscribers switching to VoIP without the Dealer or Centrals knowledge will continue to haunt the industry. The use of SIP in Central Stations can go a long way towards solving these problems, but the question is - will this be overlooked?


How SIP Trunking can help solve the VoIP problem

When you have a SIP Trunk, you have control over codecs and DTMF settings - at least as far as the boundaries of your provider network. You will still have no control over the network between your provider and each subscriber, and that's where our IP Clean technology comes in. IP Clean has the ability to receive signals regardless of the codec or DTMF settings used by the subscriber. If you utilize a solution like IP Clean, we will be able to agree on optimum settings that will allow DTMF tones to reliably pass from the subscribers alarm panel, via the IP Clean algorithm and into your receivers through your SIP Trunk.


SIP will not be any help in reducing the number of "faulty calls" on it's own and it should perhaps only be seen as a potential replacement for lines into a Central Station in locations where POTS lines are no longer available. It is more of a business continuity tool rather that a tool for fixing the VoIP problem. A Central Station's longer term focus should be more on increasing the number of ways that alarm signals can be sent into their facility over IP. That's not to say that alarm subscribers will have to have cell or IP modules installed or swap out their panels. On the subscriber end, we have to work with what we have got in place already. A panel connected to a "POTS" or VoIP line and a Customer that nobody wants to call or write to asking for more money.


Accepting that you have limited, if any control over the subscriber end, you do however have full control at the Central Station end and this is where the problem can be addressed with IP Clean. You need a way to reliably receive signals from the panel regardless of the voice service it is connected to. This is simply not possible where there is an analog alarm receiver in the equation. Unfortunately, replacing your Central Station POTS lines with SIP lines will not help either, because you will never be able to gain control over the codec and DTMF selection of the far end equipment or network. Signals are already corrupted before they reach your SIP trunk.


The key is to be able to receive signals regardless of the codec and DTMF settings and despite any latency and jitter that may be experienced. From that point on, it's easy to have a "clean" signal forwarded in your facility via a POTS line in the short term, perhaps a SIP line in the medium term and ultimately over IP in the long term.