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Do I Need a Landline for a Home Security System?

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Do I Need a Landline for a Home Security System?
October 21, 2019
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Do I Need a Landline for a Home Security System?

Wireless

home security systems mean homeowners and renters can cut the cord on phone

lines—not burglars

As early as next year, traditional phone lines may go the way of the payphone and become a thing of the past. And as more and more homeowners cut the traditional phone line cord, they are wondering: Do I need a phone line to have a home security system?

Not only is the answer a resounding “no” but opting for completely wireless home security systems offers a wealth of advantages over those that rely on Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).

For decades, traditional copper home phone lines remained the standard for sending communications to an alarm monitoring company. Households that relied on POTS generally (though not always) used the same phone line for alarm systems and making actual phone calls. These hard-wired systems typically involve considerable effort and expense to install, requiring a professional to drill holes, run wires, possibly solder connections, and program the system onsite.

But as cellphone use saturated the nation, many families have opted to exchange their home phones for group cell phone plans—prompting the communications and security industries to evolve as well. Nearly 54 percent of U.S. households now depend solely on cellphones for their communication needs, and that number jumps to more than 70 percent for Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34.

Landline usage has declined so dramatically that AT&T has long planned to phase out POTS by next year—with approval in hand from 20 of the 21 states where it reigns as the primary phone carrier.

Wireless

home security systems: why they’re a superior choice for protecting your home

The security industry took its first steps toward fully wireless systems with the development of reliable wireless sensors like door/window sensors and glass break sensors in the 1980s. But the real technological revolution occurred in the following decades as cellular technology and services became more affordable.

Originally developed as backup coverage in case of blackouts or other home phone outages, cellular monitoring quickly evolved into a popular standalone service with many superior features for 24/7 protection of homes and businesses. Interactive Internet services also emerged on a wide scale, allowing users to control and observe their home security systems remotely via smartphones, tablets, or computers. Wireless sensor technology became more powerful and affordable as well, enabling a do-it-yourself approach to system installations.

Today, wireless home security systems are truly without wires: transmitting signals from system devices to a control hub—and from the hub to the monitoring service—via radio waves. An external connection is typically maintained by tapping into cell towers near a home or through the installation of a cellular transmitter installed on the property. Homeowners can also connect wireless security systems to their Wi-Fi networks as a backup.

With no lines that can be snipped by a burglar and long-lasting batteries, wireless cellular monitoring dramatically enhances a home’s security by making protection significantly less vulnerable to deliberate or natural outages. Outbound cellular communication also enables homeowners to set up remote access and receive instant text or email alerts about potential issues that can be instantly checked against real-time footage from the system’s wireless security cameras (which do rely on a separate Wi-Fi connection).

Wireless systems are built on battery-powered sensors that are supervised to keep track of battery life, alerting the monitoring center and the homeowner if a battery is low or a device is disconnected to prevent any gaps in coverage. While it’s important to change batteries as soon as alerts are received, this type of maintenance is minimal since many wireless sensors now boast expected battery lives of at least five or six years (and some as high as 10).

Picture of Frontpoint Home Security ProductsPicture of Frontpoint Home Security Products
Advanced wireless systems like Frontpoint Security connect devices with the low-power Z-Wave technology that enables home automation.

The advantages of wireless security systems don’t stop there. The most advanced security companies connect and communicate with internal devices through Z-Waves, a low-energy wireless communications protocol designed for home automation. This technology employs a transmitter of low-power radio frequencies that’s embedded into home electronics devices. It uses much less power than Wi-Fi but offers a much longer range than the Bluetooth connections found in other devices.

The devices’ Z-Wave communication with the control panel—which sends an outbound cellular signal—enables homeowners to remotely monitor and control the functions of smart system components through online interfaces, such as locking doors that were left open from your desk at work or unlocking them to let contractors into the house. It also allows security systems to seamlessly interact with other home automation devices. For instance, homeowners can program their systems to automatically control smart home features, perhaps turning lights on or off with alarm events or raising the thermostat if motion sensors detect no one is home.

Z-Wave also defends against hacking with AES-128 encryption that is so secure that some estimates measure the time needed to decrypt it in billions of years.

There is a sole exception to using Z-Wave: the only part of advanced wireless systems that can’t use these low-energy protocols are security cameras. While they are still wireless, cameras, at the moment, must be connected to Wi-Fi to ensure that there is enough bandwidth to send relatively large video data. That means that wireless cameras generally require a wireless router connected to a power outlet (ideally, one with a battery back-up) and the home’s Internet must be working for them to transmit.

The

pros and cons of wired and wireless home security systems

Home security systems that

rely on traditional landlines

Landline systems use a physical connection to send signals to an alarm monitoring company. The phone line is typically shared by the household and the alarm system.

Pros

  • Monitoring services connected by a traditional phone line can operate during cellular outages.

Cons

  • Since POTS utilizes physical copper lines, landline security systems are vulnerable to both natural (say, a knocked-down tree) and deliberate outages (burglars wielding wire cutters).
  • POTS connections to monitoring services tend to be slower because they have to navigate landline switches and networks. Cellular monitoring, for instance, may use very fast protocols like 4G LTE to reach the monitoring station.
  • Some telephone service providers plan to phase out landline use as early as 2020, which may eventually render landline systems obsolete.
  • Devices installed in a hard-wired home security system remain fixed in place throughout their lifetime—or at least until more wire is run. This vastly raises the cost and hassle of upgrades, downgrades, and additions.
  • The security system typically takes over the home phone line to alert the monitoring service if an alarm is triggered, rendering the line temporarily unavailable for incoming and outgoing calls.
Graphic of phone lines being cutGraphic of phone lines being cut
Security systems that rely on traditional copper phone lines to connect to a monitoring service are vulnerable to deliberate and natural outages.

Home security systems that

rely on cellular monitoring

Similar to cellphones, these home security systems use wireless digital transmissions to transmit alarm signals to a monitoring company.

Pros

  • Alarm systems that utilize a cellular network can communicate through storms and downed lines, as long as there is sufficient cellular coverage in the area. Long-lasting backup batteries also enable them to maintain protection during power outages.
  • Home security systems using cellular communication can carry more data at greater speeds—especially in comparison to POTS systems.
  • Since the connection is wireless, it’s generally tamper-proof—making deliberate outages extremely rare. As an extra layer of protection, Frontpoint Security equips its control hub with jam detection, ensuring that any interruption in sensor communication is interpreted as an alarm.
  • Cellular connections enable homeowners to receive mobile alerts about potential issues and set up remote access to the system.
  • Without the need to run wires, systems can arrive preprogrammed with out-of-the-box functionality, eliminating the need for pricey professional installers. Instead, installation is as simple as sitting a sensor on a shelf or attaching it to a wall with peel-back adhesive. Without wires running through the walls, homeowners or renters can also easily transfer their systems from home to home.
  • Wireless systems are future-proof—meaning that if the system or its components become broken or outdated, it’s easy to swap in new ones.

Cons

  • Spotty cell reception in an area is the biggest concern voiced by homeowners considering cellular monitoring. The most advanced systems like Frontpoint Security mitigate this issue by transmitting at a much lower frequency than what’s required for voice conversations over cellphones, helping the system’s cellular connection remain strong even if coverage in an area is otherwise weak. Frontpoint also performs tests to ensure homeowners receive the provider with the strongest signal and coverage in their area before completing an order. In addition, system users can connect their security systems to their Wi-Fi networks as a back-up for the greatest peace of mind.
  • Power outages can impact cellular monitoring if the control panel needs to be plugged in. To combat power outages, Frontpoint equips its Hub with a 24-hour battery back-up—an upgrade from many other systems where backup batteries may only last between 2-4 hours. Frontpoint also alerts homeowners when the power is out and keeps them updated on the status of the power failure.
Picture of Frontpoint App AlertsPicture of Frontpoint App Alerts
Cellular connections enable homeowners to receive mobile alerts about potential issues and remotely access the system.

Home security systems that

rely on an Internet connection

Some wireless home security systems use a high-speed Internet connection—such as cable, DSL, or fiber—to communicate with the monitoring company.

Pros

  • Internet services can be fast, convenient, and feature-rich. Like cellular systems, people have the ability to access and control cameras, entry systems, lighting, thermostats, and other home security and smart home devices from any web browser.
  • Also similar to cellular systems, the wireless design of Internet services also makes them easy to upgrade.

Cons

  • These systems can be unreliable, requiring constant power and Internet connectivity at the home to operate.
  • Many Internet providers use throttling, or intentional slowing, during peak hours to ensure adequate usage among all their customers. Throttling can lead to unpredictable problems with alarm signals.
  • With physical outbound lines to connect to service, Internet-based monitoring is vulnerable to direct sabotage.

Cellular

wireless home security systems can’t be thwarted by a $20 wire cutter

Many types of home security systems have the potential to stop intruders. But wireless security systems that rely on cellular communication stand out as a superior option—combining convenience and smart technology features with maximum reliability. They are also versatile, portable, cost-effective, and virtually tamper-proof.

As more and more homeowners look to eliminate the expense of plain old telephone service—and major service providers begin to completely phase out landlines—wireless home security systems allow users to cut the cord on traditional phone lines without fear of compromising their home security.

Strengthened by cellular monitoring, a new generation of wireless technology offers the highest level of protection with systems that are always on, connected, and transmitting—and can’t be thwarted by a burglar with a wire cutter.


Frontpoint keeps families safer and more connected in their everyday lives. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. To shop DIY home security systems, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.

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