AT&T, Alarm Industry Argue Over Request for 3G Sunset Delay

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The alarm industry and AT&T are continuing their dispute over the carrier’s planned sunset of its 3G network February 22, 2022. The Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) of The Monitoring Association petitioned the FCC to act to delay the planned shutdown of AT&T’s 3G wireless network because the alarm industry will not have the security, fire, and personal medical alert systems upgraded to a new network by the deadline.

There are 6 million 3G radio alarm systems that will need to be switched out and upgraded before the 3G sunset, according to the AICC. Because of the pandemic, it said, the industry’s effort to replace those 3G radios has been slow. “Without this extra time, millions of Americans who rely on these services for protection will be placed at risk as of February 22, 2022,” AICC said in a message to its members. “Currently, an upgrade requires the dispatch of a technician to the premises and for the technician to enter the premises, switch out the existing radio and upgrade the alarm panel. Understandably, because of COVID-19, people are reluctant to have anyone, let alone alarm technicians, enter their home or business.” 

AT&T replied that the AICC’s assertion was not credible because, it said, the COVID pandemic hasn’t kept technicians out of people’s homes. On the contrary, the carrier asserted, the pandemic has actually accelerated the installation of new alarms because of the additional time people have spent in their homes. 

“Having signed up new customers in record numbers, these alarm companies are fully capable of replacing 3G radios still used by existing customers,” AT&T wrote. “And barring an extension, each alarm company has strong incentives to replace those radios by AT&T’s long-planned February 2022 sunset, lest those existing customers take their business to competing alarm companies.” 

AICC refuted the assertions made by AT&T in its comments to the FCC, saying they  inaccurately reflected the alarm industry’s efforts to extend the 3G sunset, in a prepared statement. As well as the pandemic, the association cited the current global chip shortage as a factor that slowed the 3G alarm replacements. It gave as an example of a workable solution Verizon’s 3G sunset of December 2022. The alarm industry said it is working with a company that has developed a way to allow home monitoring customers to self-install their cellular transmitters. It also noted a similar spat going on between DISH Network and T-Mobile concerning the shutdown of a 3G network, which Inside Towers has covered.

“The burglar, fire, and home health monitoring industry is empathetic with DISH Network’s concerns that it will not be able to serve its customers when T-Mobile sunsets its 3G network this coming January,” AICC wrote. “As an industry, we are even more concerned that millions of our customers who depend upon AT&T’s 3G network to protect their life, safety, property and health will not be able to do so starting in February.”

AICC noted its support from AARP, Public Knowledge, Auto Innovators and Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. “These groups strongly recommend delaying the February date, and confirm the FCC has the power to step in here and delay the sunset because life, safety and health will be at risk. These commenters, as well as recent investigative articles in the press, also demonstrate that the 3G shutdown will affect a far wider base of consumers than alarm industry customers.”

By J. Sharpe Smith Inside Towers Technology

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