IT’S obvious that
there are ramifications for the local market in the growing pressure being
placed on the U.S. Government to close the POTS/PSTN network. It makes sense
that duplicating infrastructure by operating a switched PSTN network while at
the same time operating an adjacent IP network is a waste of money –
particularly given the limitations of PSTN.

But for local companies,
the thinking is that any closure of PSTN in Australia is a long term issue.
According to Videofied’s national manager, Brad White, in Australia it will be
less sudden and more gradual ‘sunset’ than in the US. Videofied, which
specialised in video verification, has a business that is 100 per cent
GPRS/GSM.

“The reason for
the gradual sunset will be the nature of Australia’s telecommunications network
and infrastructure has been managed and maintained by a national operator,
unlike in the US,” White explains.

“The U.S. POTS
infrastructure and its quality varies significantly from State to State as
there was never the same level of collective investment by the US Government
for a quality national POTS network.

“The US needs a
dramatic and collective national response to POTS to overcome the shortfalls of
various States in the US.”

In the U.S.
AT&T says the U.S. Government’s plan to extend broadband to every American
home means PSTN must be closed down so all its efforts can be directed at
supporting broadband infrastructure rather than trying to operate a switched
network and an IP network at the same time. White agrees this same imperative
applies here but there are differences.

“The same thing
applies in Australia but I think the National Broadband Network rollout across
the entire country will inevitably be plagued with all sorts of unforeseen
problems affecting the rollout timetable. Consequently, this IP network may not
seen as soon as scheduled.”

According to a
recent report in betanews, approximately 25 per cent of American households
have abandoned POTS altogether, and another 700,000 lines are being cut every
month. These numbers might sounds unlikely but betanews says that official
figures show that “from 2000 to 2008, the number of residential switched access
lines has fallen by almost half, from 139 million to 75 million”.

“Non-primary
residential lines have fallen by 62 per cent over the same period; with the
rise of broadband, few customers still need a second phone line for dial-up
Internet service,” says the report.

“Total interstate
and intrastate switched access minutes have fallen by a staggering 42 per cent
from 2000 through 2008. Indeed, perhaps the clearest sign of the transformation
away from POTS and towards a broadband future is that there are probably now
more broadband connections than telephone lines in the United States.”

It’s a somewhat
different picture locally, with figures published by A. C. Neilson suggesting
Australian Internet usage increased from 34 per cent of the population in 2000
to 80 per cent in 2009. Interestingly, while it’s thought 90 per cent of
Australian homes retain PSTN phone services the younger demographic is swinging
rapidly to wireless.

The numbers tell
their inviolate story. With more than 80 per cent of Aussie homes connected to
the Internet and 50 per cent of Aussie ISPs offering VoIP services as part of a
bundled service, there is a case that eventually, most Australian homes will
use wireless or Internet as their primary communications paths.

White believes
the majority of Australians will be more inclined to adopt wireless technology
as a bundled package as opposed to a fixed internet connection.

“Mobile phones –
wireless – will likely be the predominant replacement for the humble landline,
with IP VoIP having a much smaller level of take up,” White explains. “The
residential land-line hardwired internet will be adopted by those prepared to
pay for the street connection to a fibre network.

“Advantages to
this connection will be IPTV and faster/wider bandwidth internet but the
wireless option will likely far exceed those who opt for a more stationary
connection. Wireless technologies are evolving, and so are Australians with the
younger generations likely to be more transient the less rooted at a dwelling
for a period that will justify the outlay of the street connection,” he says.

The technologies
White thinks best fits the bill as a post-PSTN Carrier of Last Resort in
Australia are GPRS and EDGE data transmission.

“The costing model
of GPRS/EDGE makes it a stable and affordable solution to the M2M market for
now and into the future, not just for Australia, but throughout the world,”
White says.

“It is the world
stage that dictates what Australia needs to consider as the telecommunications
M2M standard. Until such time as the world sets another standard mobile
protocol, GPRS and EDGE will be the ever present
bread-on-the-telecommunications-dinner-table.”

Given the
improvements in technology over the past decade it’s increasingly possible to
argue using multiple carriers for monitoring services is overkill with IP
services able to offer five-nines uptime.

But there are
still many questions unanswered. NBN Co, which is responsible for the roll-out
of the $A43 billion National Broadband Network across Australia, recently told
Security Insider Magazine that it had not yet given specific consideration to
the issues the security industry faces when driving monitoring services across
its terrain.

But White says
the wireless option of GPRS/EDGE communication paths and the natural evolution
of the wireless mobile data medium should nullify any concerns with this
potential IP issue.

“The likelihood
is that IP Ethernet communication will become the standard primary
communication path for alarm panels with a wireless redundancy,” he says.
“Interface modules will easily accommodate simple alarm transmission data over
IP, and it should not be considered necessary to proactively seek alternatives.

“A united,
industry-wide approach to the future of monitoring communications paths will
best serve the security industry, but it must also serve the greater good of
the consumer,” White explains.

“The costing
model of GPRS/EDGE makes it a stable and affordable solution to the M2M market
for now and into the future, not just for Australia, but throughout the world”

One of the
toughest things about replacing the POTS/PSTN system is that in combination
with a digital dialler it constitutes a broadly universal standard – there’s no
proprietary solution needed to handle it, just industry standard receivers.

The question
arises as to whether a global wireless standard is required before the alarm
monitoring industry gets to a broad level, or whether the industry could manage
with multiple proprietary reporting systems in a single monitoring station.

White thinks
Australia should wait and see what the rest of the world is doing about a
global wireless standard.

“Once this is
determined, standard-based equipment will be mass produced and consequently
provided cheaper to the Australian security M2M marketplace. This determination
can then assist to form a standard for digital monitoring receiver platforms,”
White says.

Instructively, if
he had to choose now, White would support GPRS as the next-gen monitoring
technology.

“GPRS is the 2.5G
M2M solution for the reasons of price, reliability, and world standard,” White
says. “In fact GPRS has won the global war over all other standards; we saw
what happened with CDMA in Australia, and unlike GPRS, CDMA has no worldwide
future apart from a local niche market. Australia should take advantage of GPRS
as the only current globally accepted protocol.”

Of course,
there’s going to be a lot of work required by installers if GPRS does become
the standard of choice for monitoring solutions.

“The changes to
wired IP and Wireless technologies will naturally take place as new
technologies and services evolve, and it will probably be financially healthy
for the security industry to experience these changes,” White says.

“However, with
the changes in Securitel and now the introduction of a NSW Police $200 fine for
non-genuine alarms, it appears prudent that consumers be educated about the
security industry issues and police alarm response policies, rather than just
‘upgrading’ alarms from diallers,” he explains.

“This is where a
responsible security industry should focus much of its work. Dialler
replacement to multi-redundancy wireless and IP solutions is an attractive
means for security companies to make more recurring income, but a more
responsible outlay verse reward approach to customers is needed to honestly
show the consumer the ‘real’ benefits of redundancy, especially if a response
to an alarm cannot be provided,” White says.

“In my view, the
verification of an actual intrusion is worthy of more attention than multi
redundancy wireless and IP reporting upgrades for standard diallers.”

One of the issues
with current PSTN networks is that given data is dominant, the nature of PSTN
means data has to piggyback on a system that was not built to handle it. The
result is that PSTN cannot handle data efficiently, especially big loads like
video streams – and video has plenty of potential not just for remote
monitoring but for alarm verification – an area that is important to Videofied,
a company that manufactures video verification alarm solutions.

“IP definitely
will open a gateway for live video streaming during alarm events for
verification purposes,” White says. “This will be especially driven by the most
recent pressures from Australian law enforcement for alarm verification
solutions, namely visual or video verification prior to priority police
response.

“Of course, a
switch to all-IP networks is not completely necessary to accommodate remote
video verification of alarm events, which is the primary role of a security
monitoring station,” he explains.

“Videofied
event-activated 10 second alarm video files are no larger than 200Kilabytes,
and while it is no multi megapixel high resolution streaming video, it provides
the control room operator with the video event to enable an intelligent and
timely response.

“In fact 100’s of
Videofied video alarms can actually be monitored using a 56K dial up speed
modem at the control room end. It is all about intelligent use of technology to
practically achieve the primary objectives.”

“It is the world
stage that dictates what Australia needs to consider as the telecommunications
M2M standard. Until such time as the world sets another standard mobile
protocol, GPRS and EDGE will be the ever present
bread-on-the-telecommunications-dinner-table”

White says that
in the case of alarm monitoring, the focus unfortunately is on numerous
communication paths as opposed to reducing false alarms and getting the
appropriate and timely response, which is likely going to be the police.

And White
highlights a number of key challenges the monitoring and alarm installation
business faces over the next ten years when it comes to the broad introduction
of IP and wireless alarm reporting

“Issues
installers face include configuring an IP network – routers to accommodate
alarm/video systems to communicate to monitoring stations over wired IP
networks will eventually be a large role of every security installer,” he says.

“This will be
time consuming, challenging and fraught with frustration for some not so
IT-savvy installers. Therefore, I believe most alarm system installer will opt
for the wireless video verified integrated alarm products that communicate via
GPRS/EDGE/UTMS to IP as a faster and more flexible solution.

Meanwhile over at
SNP, managing director Tom Roche agrees that duplicating infrastructure with a
switched network and a parallel IP network is a waste of money. According to
Roche, it makes sense if a customer can bring down their overall communication
costs by bundling services.

When it comes to
replacing PSTN, Roche says SNP is already using multiple IP platforms including
Emizon, IR Multipat, Permaconn and Telstra Secure and he believes the industry
needs to proactively look at monitoring options. 

“The industry
peak body, ASIAL, has had discussions with NBN regarding issues of network
performance and compliance to Australian Standards,” says Roche.

“Manufacturers of
transmission platforms and security control panels certainly need to be
involved in any discussions.”

In terms of
actually making a changeover from dialler, Roche says there would need to be a
site visit.

“Every client
premises would require a technician to attend and perform the cutover to
upgrade the system,” he explains. “The customer would incur costs for the new
transmission equipment and as a result there may be monitoring price
increases.”

According to
Roche, about 96 per cent of the SNP monitoring business is dialler with just 4
per cent being IP-based. Given the progressive and inventive nature of the SNP
business, including its historical willingness to explore new monitoring
technologies, these figures suggest affordable and reliable dialler is proving
resilient in the local market.

Meanwhile,
Suretek’s Luke Kavanagh explains that the National Broadband Network will
converge multiple technologies and deliver many services on a single
connection.

“Important to
bear in mind is that the US is completely different to Australia with regards
to population density,” explains Kavanagh. “Australia is quite rare in
that we have a large geographical reach for the population.

“This is why I
believe Telstra have and continue to invest in wireless
technology. Delivering fibre to the home in Australia will come at an
astronomical expense to the tax payer. If you look at the price per capita
compared to the US, the cost would be enormous.”

From Kavanagh’s
point of view, it’s logical that more and more homes and businesses will move
to more cost effective methods for all communications. That means IP in a
combination of fibre, hardwired and wireless.

“This will be
time consuming, challenging and fraught with frustration for some not so
IT-savvy installers. Therefore, I believe most alarm system installer will opt
for the wireless video verified integrated alarm products that communicate via
GPRS/EDGE/UTMS to IP as a faster and more flexible solution”