Vonage may have the marketing clout to make a splash in announcing a partnership with Alarm.com to provide security monitoring services sans the traditional phone company. But there are other solutions for the security-conscious VoIP user who wants to cut the PSTN cord.
VoIP service provider Vonage’s marketing machine has been busily promoting the company’s partnership with Alarm.com, a wireless alarm monitoring service based in Virginia, as the answer to the need for reliable home and business security monitoring without the use of traditional phone lines.
But while the PR blitz may be making a big splash, the Vonage-Alarm.com alliance is not the first system that allows its users cut the cord on PSTN service. Ojai, CA based NextAlarm.com claims that distinction for its Alarm Broadband Network (ABN), which was introduced in January, 2005.
Monitored security systems have traditionally required conventional phone service to process alarm signals reliably. VoIP’s well-known limitations working with devices requiring that digital data be transmitted over an analog connection — such as fax machines and personal video recording systems such as Tivo — inhibit alarm systems that send digital tones over copper wire to communicate with monitoring centers.
Many consumers attracted to the cost savings offered by VoIP don’t realize that their security system doesn’t work over their VoIP connection. Often the first indication they get is an alarm that doesn’t go through.
Disconnecting alarm systems from the PSTN is a growing need, according to NextAlarm CEO Alex Elliot.
“There are more than 35 million alarm systems in the US today, says Elliot. “So it’s likely that 15 to 20 percent of new VoIP customers will have alarm systems.”
“Most people who sign up with Vonage want to drop the phone company,” explains Jamie Serino, Vonage Director of Communications. “But until now home alarm customers had to maintain the copper line for the alarm. Now, any customer that was hesitant to get Vonage because they needed to keep their phone line for the security system will consider signing up for Vonage and getting the Alarm.com wireless system.”
The partnership with Alarm.com allows Vonage to reach new customers through Alarm.com’s dealer network while promoting Alarm.com’s security solutions to existing Vonage customers.
“Vonage is a great partner because they’re creating a lot of customer awareness through their marketing campaigns,” says Mary Knebel, Alarm.com’s VP of Business Development.
Customer awareness of the alarm system compatibility problems has grown in the last year.
Vonage’s Serino says the company receives “a significant number of inquiries” about the VoIP service’s compatibility with alarm systems.
Alarm.com has also seen a growing interest among its customer base. “We have been seeing increasing numbers of communications from customers about this issue since late 2003,” Knebel says.
NextAlarm too has also garnered interest from VoIP customers, according to CEO Elliot. “We get a lot of calls from Vonage customers.”
Both systems can operate without voice service. But there are important differences in the network approach, flexibility and cost.
Alarm.com operates using a wireless network. It doesn’t require any phone system or even an Internet connection. NextAlarm.com, by comparison, operates through a broadband Internet connection, using an analog telephone adaptor by Digium to transmit signals to its monitoring centers.
Consumers concerned about preserving their investments in existing security systems will more likely be attracted to NextAlarm, which can be used with most existing security systems.
By comparison, the Alarm.com wireless solution only works with the company’s own alarm system — requiring customers to replace existing security devices.
There are significant cost differences between the two systems — both in installation and monthly service.
NextAlarm’s setup cost for its Alarm Broadband system is $119.00, which includes a pre-configured Digium Iaxy telephone adaptor, though the customer will need to provide the actual security equipment — such as an alarm control panel and sensors — separately.
Because Alarm.com requires the use of the company’s own equipment, setup costs start at $479.00 for a very basic “Alarm.com Base Kit,” which includes a wireless control panel, two door/window sensors, a wireless motion sensor, and a keychain remote control. Additional sensors — a necessity in anything but the smallest of homes — run from $80 and up on Alarm.com’s web site.
NextAlarm customers pay $14.95 a month, reduced to $8.95 with an annual contract. Alarm.com offers Vonage customers three free months of service. After that the company offers standard $24.95 and $34.95 residential plans.
The bottom line is that both solutions make it easier to cut the copper line to the telephone company.
“In people’s minds there are certain barriers to getting VoIP and dropping the phone company,” says Vonage’s Serino. “Now the alarm system is one VoIP barrier that’s been taken down.”