While the smart home sector licks its collective chops at the prospects of 5G’s impact, the security industry continues its efforts to ensure alarm systems do not go dark as carriers sunset their 3G networks. In many instances, cellular is the primary mode of communication from the client premises to the central station.
Verizon had originally notified subscribers it would be shutting down its 3G/CDMA network at the end of 2019 but is now targeting Dec. 31 of this year. AT&T says it will be sunsetting its 3G/non-LTE 4G network in early 2022. T-Mobile and Sprint have not made public statements but signs point to similar 3G retirements at least by the end of 2022.
Security industry insiders cite the efficient ability to address this transition as a top challenge facing suppliers and dealers in 2020, as some explained to CE Pro sister publication Security Sales & Integration (SSI) as part of its annual crystal ball look into 2020, for instance:
Peter Giacalone, Giacalone Associates — “The 3G sunset has created more concern and focus on expeditious transitions than originally expected. It really does appear that the carriers will not only stick to their aggressive plan for sunsetting 3G, it has become apparent that the thinning of the services has already started and is in full motion as areas of the country are already experiencing great reductions in service and coverage.”
George De Marco, DECO Ventures and chairman of Electronic Security Expo — “Millions of devices that use 2G and 3G technology are affected across many industries. Faced with a looming deadline, the industry will be rushing to the finish line to refresh communications protocols. This will be exasperated as alarm dealers and integrators struggle from higher attrition, the cost of the upgrade and the limited time to complete.”
How to Handle the 3G Sunset
Sarah Salazar, account manager for central station provider United Central Control (UCC), outlined several steps security dealers can take. For one thing, Salazar says, dealers run the risk of losing accounts to others offering competitive or even free upgrades to the latest communicators.
The first step dealers need to take is to put together a complete list of all the 3G units that need to be upgraded. Then, create a schedule to replace them, she says.
“Since replacing all of your units in one month isn’t a goal most companies can accomplish while onboarding new business and maintaining service levels for existing accounts, you’ll need a plan,” Salazar says.
“One way to develop a plan is to use the total number of units that need to be replaced to create monthly and weekly goals. For example, if you have 120 units that need to be upgraded and your goal is to do that within the next 12 months (which is a good goal), you would need to average upgrading 10 units a month, or four to five units each week.”
She adds that monitoring companies can likely assist in these efforts. The next step is to develop an upgrade program, since upgrading a device can be costly “in terms of equipment and time for both parties concerned, especially if you haven’t researched all of your options.”
Some manufacturers are already running promotions on products and services that enable dealers to offer free or reduced prices on equipment and upgrades to subscribers when integrators switch out their 3G devices. She advises integrators to not just address the sunset, but to use the opportunity as a touchpoint to upsell other services.
“Use the sunset as an opportunity to remarket your current database,” Salazar says. “The demand for smart home products has skyrocketed in recent years, which means the sunset gives you the perfect opportunity to give your customers new services.”