FCC Ruling May Render Analog Alarms Useless

At the stroke of midnight on Feb. 18, some alarm systems will be rendered useless due to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that allows cellular phone companies to discontinue providing analog service, warns Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company. The insurer is urging jewelers to check with their alarm service provider top ensure that they will have service.

Of the nearly 26 million alarm systems in use, the FCC estimates that one million may still use analog radio equipment, not the newer digital technology, Neenah, Wisc.-based firm said. Wireless systems installed before Spring 2006 generally rely on analog equipment. This can include popular cellular services, such as Honeywell’s AlarmNet – C service, which uses analog technology scheduled for retirement.

“Under the FCC docket known as 01-108, cell phone companies will no longer be required to offer AMPS service after February 2008,” said David Sexton, Jewelers Mutual vice president of Loss Prevention. “Cell carriers may elect, however, to continue their support of advanced mobile phone system service beyond Feb. 18. It is their choice. Although cell carriers are not required to drop their support of the AMPS service, this clearly seems to be the intention of the majority of cellular carriers at this time.”

Monitored alarm systems frequently use primary and secondary methods to communicate a tripped alarm, according to Sexton. Often, a landline is primary, but when the landline is cut or not operational, it goes to a secondary system that may be analog. In a 2007 survey by the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, 92.5 percent of their member companies used AMPS-based systems. Of those, approximately 70 percent used analog equipment. The FCC expects that the majority will convert their customer’s systems before discontinuing service.

Most protection services companies have likely notified their customers, advising them to transition to digital. But if you missed the notices, waste no time in contacting your alarm system provider and your insurance agent for more information. To gain a better understanding of this ruling, visit http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/analogcellphone.pdf or call 888-CALL-FCC.

Jewelers Mutual adds that this is a different FCC ruling than the one affecting the transition of analog to digital television that takes effect in Feb. 2009.