5G Alarm Monitoring Communicators - Will They Make a Difference?Posted By Michael Goris
A few months ago, I got my first 5G phone. I didn't go out of my way to upgrade. I had simply broken my old smartphone and needed a new one. While I would love to tell you that it has made a huge difference, that is simply not the case. I have only noticed a slight uptick in speed at most.
But this post isn't designed to serve as a review for my newest smartphone. It's just to put the latest cellular technology into perspective. And the truth isn't all that shocking. 5G will not revolutionize how you use your security system. That's true from both a security perspective and from a smart home automation perspective. The reality is that the faster speeds that come with 5G cellular communication will not have a major impact on the usual tasks associated with alarm monitoring and remote automation connectivity.
It's hard to quantify just how much faster 5G is than 4G LTE. A brief bit of research will typically reveal that the new technology is supposed to be roughly 5 to 10 times faster. And you have likely heard the incredible promise that a 5G phone will be able to download a two-hour long movie in under 10 seconds, compared with roughly 7 minutes for a phone using 4G LTE. Of course, testing 5G speeds in practice has produced mixed results, but we'll give the cellular companies the benefit of the doubt in that they're still fine-tuning their 5G networks. The point is that 5G promises to be considerably faster than 4G LTE once the network issues are fully sorted out. And really, most speed tests will already show quantifiable improvement when comparing 5G with its predecessor.
But how does that translate into your security system communicating with the central station? Or what about using Total Connect 2.0 or Alarm.com to perform a smart home automation command remotely? Really, not in any manner that you are likely to notice. As we have mentioned before, alarm systems send and receive very small amounts of data when communicating with a central monitoring station and/or an interactive platform like TC2 or ADC. While the faster speeds of 5G communication technically improve data transfer rates, it honestly doesn't matter too much when you're considering data transfers this small.
The bigger benefit of 5G when it comes to security systems is associated with its reduced latency. If you are not familiar with latency, it refers to the amount of time it takes a connected device to make a request from the server and successfully receive a response. This initial request and response must occur before any actual data transfer can take place. Obviously, a low latency rate helps make a faster response possible. And while 4G LTE latency was already quite low - we're talking milliseconds here - the latency of 5G is almost nonexistent. That in itself is probably the best argument you can make for 5G connectivity improving your day-to-day security system experience once 5G radios are available.
Returning to my phone example from earlier, I haven't noticed much difference between when I was using 4G LTE connectivity and when I upgraded to a 5G model. The tasks I perform on my phone are much more demanding in terms of data transfer requirements than what you would ever conceivably request out of your alarm system. I have been known to use my phone for live-streaming events, such as sporting matches and concerts. With a 5G connection, it's maybe a second or two faster, but it's nothing life-changing like when my family upgraded from dial-up to high-speed internet during the days of my youth. And if a second or two is all I'm getting out of demanding tasks like live-streaming long events, then any difference for the routine security and automation tasks performed by your alarm system's cellular communicator (which is usually just a backup to its internet communicator anyway) will be negligible.
What does all of this mean? There are a few takeaways that we can apply to the alarm industry. First, if you are holding off getting an LTE communicator for your alarm system because you are "waiting for a 5G model to arrive", then don't bother. The difference will be virtually unnoticeable. An LTE communicator will almost certainly offer you the high-quality performance you expect, provided that you live in an area with decent cellular connectivity, which is roughly 98% of the United States. We have stressed the importance of upgrading to LTE sooner rather than later many times before, especially with the 3G sunset closing in on us. And remember that LTE is not going anywhere any time soon. Therefore, upgrading to LTE is still our recommended method for "future-proofing" your alarm system.
Now, once 5G communicators are readily available, should you get one? It's still a bit early for us to answer that question, but we will try our best. Our take is yes, you should get one, but don't go out of your way. By that we mean, if you are (at that point in the future) readily in the market for a cellular security system, then yes, by all means, get a 5G cellular communicator. Getting the latest available cellular technology is always a good idea. There may be a slight mark-up in price between the older LTE models and the newer 5G models, much like the same mark-up exists if you go shopping for a smartphone right now. But in the case of cellular alarm monitoring communicators versus your cherished smartphone that you literally carry everywhere, the price mark-up for a 5G communicator versus an LTE communicator should be significantly less. And if it's within your budget, then yes, absolutely get a 5G communicator once they are available, assuming that you are actively looking for a new alarm system communicator. The 5G networks are going to be continuously improved and rigorously maintained, so it makes sense to get on-board if you are in the market.
But if you already have a perfectly capable alarm system using an LTE communicator, then honestly, there's not much of a need. A 5G communicator won't change how you use your security system, and it won't significantly improve your day-to-day operation. Unless you really want to brag to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues that "your security system uses 5G", then there's pretty much no need to upgrade just for the sake of it. There may come a day in the mid-to-late 2030s where we're urging you to "upgrade to 5G" in light of an "LTE sunset", but you have more pressing things to worry about right now. Real talk, if you have anxiety over the thought of your system's LTE communicator no longer being supported in 2035, then we promise you, it's going to be okay. We will have you covered when that time comes.
5G communicators for alarm systems are going to come. It's inevitable. But if you're wondering why they aren't already here yet, it's mostly because they honestly aren't going to provide that big of a difference over the current LTE models that we all know and love. If you're holding your breath waiting for one, then just don't bother. Get an LTE communicator if you haven't already, and rest easy in knowing that you have an effective, reliable, and trustworthy security system protecting your home or office.
And if you need someone to monitor your security system, that's where we come in! Our team at Alarm Grid would love to help protect you and those around you. Check out this page outlining all our monitoring plans for more information. Make sure to choose a plan that includes cellular connectivity if you plan to use a system with an LTE communicator, or eventually a 5G communicator. If you have any questions or concerns, then we invite you to reach out to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and our team will be happy to help. This is also a great contact email to use if you are interested in signing-up for new alarm monitoring service. Our team is here to check your incoming emails from 9am to 8pm ET M-F, so please expect all replies to come within that timeframe. We look forward to hearing from you!