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Are WIRELESS Alarm Systems Better Than Wired Ones? – Part 2

In my last blog, we took a look at why all-in-one, fully-wireless alarm systems are so popular, but also why they don’t hold up very well in extreme circumstances. There are other aspects of the system, however, where “wireless” can be a very good thing, including communication. Today we will take a look at how an alarm system communicates with the monitoring station, and the potential benefits to communicating wirelessly. 

There are essentially three different communication methods available to today’s alarm client, and we’ll look at the pro’s and con’s of each of them.

1. Phone Line

Since the inception of electronic alarm systems in the 1920’s, phone line has been the “traditional” method of communication. Every house and business always had a landline; therefore, it was cheap to implement for the Alarm companies. The technology currently in use hasn’t changed much in decades, and is essentially the same as that used by a fax machine.

The problems with this communication method are two fold: the signals are sent slowly (takes around 30-60 seconds for a single signal to be transmitted), and it relies entirely on your phone line. Should the line go down, or should a smart criminal cut the lines coming into the building (I’ve seen it happen), the alarm cannot communicate. Many phone systems also require power, so a power outage renders your system inoperable.

Not only that many people are cancelling their landlines. I cannot tell you the number of times a client has called me up saying “my alarm system isn’t working”, only to find out 30 seconds later that they cancelled the home phone line a month ago! There are cheaper, internet-based alternatives to phone lines (known as Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP), but most alarm systems aren’t compatible with them.

Pros: cheapest option available

Cons: can be cut easily; relies on power; slow to send signals

2. Internet/Wi-Fi

In the case of internet communication, the alarm system is wired directly into your router provided for you by your Internet Service Provider, or ISP. Wi-Fi operation is a little simpler, as no physical connection to your router is required. Again, this is a cheap option, because the chances are you’re already paying for internet. However, like the land line before it, this method relies entirely on your internet. If the internet goes down, if there’s a power outage, or if your Wi-Fi drops, the Alarm System cannot talk to the monitoring station.

Pros: utilizes the internet you already have in the house; much faster than phone line

Cons: relies entirely on your internet connection; must be directly wired into your network

3. Cellular

These communicators are essentially a small cell phone, and use their own SIM card to communicate over the cell network. The signals are transmitted very fast, and the communicator itself can make use of the Alarm System’s backup battery, meaning that you never lose connectivity, even during a lengthy power outage. Of course, these are still dependent on cell towers, and in rural settings or in deep basements there can be issues getting a signal; but for reliability, these are the best option currently available, and will only improve as the cell coverage and signal type improve. Right now, most use the 3G network, but as things most into 4G, LTE, and beyond, expect these communicators to keep getting smarter and smarter.

Pros: completely stand-alone (does not rely on your phone or internet); much faster than phone line; no wiring required

Cons: more expensive monthly


Note: I should point out that most internet/Wi-Fi/cellular communicators now offer (at an added cost) the ability to use “Crash and Smash” technology. This means that if someone breaks into the property intent on finding and disabling the communicator before the alarm goes off, the system now sends an “Alarm Pending” signal to the servers, which is then forwarded on to the monitoring station 4 minutes later if no other signals are received. This is a great backup, but 4 minutes is still a lot of free time for someone to have roaming around your property unchecked!

Bottom Line

The bottom line when it comes to communicators is that again, you want something that will ALWAYS send a signal, no matter what the situation or who is trying to compromise your system. There is no one option that is completely flawless, but it’s pretty obvious to me that the Cellular option has the lowest risk-to-benefit ratio. Unfortunately, it is usually the most expensive option, so you have to decide for yourself whether the reliability and speed is worth the extra money. I should also note that any of the non-landline options also open up the door to use smartphone and tablet apps to monitor your system, and send you notifications via text or e-mail if something goes wrong. In todays connected world, having that functionality is almost a no-brainer.

My recommendation: pay the extra few bucks every month and get a cellular communicator that you can not only trust, but offers you the benefit of being able to check in on your system when you’re away.

Dave Schlegel
Oxford Security Systems
Reed Security Authorized Dealer



Rahul Patel is a friendly and helpful security technician with over 5 years experience installing security systems across Saskatchewan. He recently opened ViboPulse Services and became a Reed Security Authorized Dealer in Regina, SK.

Now Open: Regina


In addition to being an experienced technician, Rahul has a post graduate diploma in Management from Centennial College in Toronto. 

Owning a business was always his ambition and after working for the competition for 5 years - it was time to become an Owner

"I reviewed my options and could clearly see why Reed Security was different. They're local and have kept the Saskatchewan values that have made them successful." 

"The $5 Promo is the best deal in Canada. You won't find a better combination of Price and Service anywhere." 

"I'm 100% dedicated to providing our clients above and beyond service. I guarantee you will be Happy."



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