What Does it Mean if My System Uses Dual-Path Communication?

If your system uses dual-path communication, it means that it can use both internet protocol (IP) communication and cellular communication to connect with a monitoring platform. This is called "dual path" because the system has two (2) unique pathways for sending and receiving signals.

A monitored security system connects with a monitoring platform so that it can send out signals during various system events, such as alarms and programmed sensors being activated or faulted. The monitoring platform will then forward this information to a central monitoring station and/or the end user directly via text and/or email, depending on the user's monitoring plan. This connectivity also allows the monitoring platform to send commands to the system whenever it is controlled through a compatible interactive service platform. It is the system's connectivity with a monitoring platform that makes alarm monitoring service possible. Examples of monitoring platforms used with security systems include AlarmNet and Alarm.com.

In order for an alarm system to successfully communicate with a monitoring platform, it must have at least one functional communication pathway. This is usually internet protocol (IP) or cellular. When a system is "dual path", it means that it has both IP and cellular communication paths available. This is widely recognized as being the fastest and most reliable type of monitoring setup that you can obtain. Although dual-path connectivity won't necessarily provide any additional features or functions for your security system, it can offer you peace of mind in knowing that your system has the best chance of staying consistently connected for monitoring service. This is because if one communication pathway goes offline, the other will still be there to keep your system monitored.

When looking at IP communication and cellular communication, both pathways have their own advantages. In most cases, IP communication is just a little bit faster, so it will help ensure a slightly faster response. Really, this difference is usually negligible, but it can be comforting for users who want to know that they have the fastest response times possible. But the advantage to cellular communication is that it is more reliable. Internet outages are fairly common, and they will take your system offline if you don't have cellular backup. And if your IP modem doesn't have a battery backup, then a power outage will also take an IP-only system offline. Cellular connectivity is extremely reliable when adequate signal quality is obtained, and it is unaffected by normal power outages. With these considerations in mind, IP is usually seen as the primary communication path, while cellular is considered to be the backup pathway.

How exactly a dual-path system sends out signals depends upon the monitoring platform that it is used with. Alarm Grid offers support for systems connecting with either AlarmNet or Alarm.com. For a dual-path Honeywell or Resideo System connecting with AlarmNet, the system will send out signals across IP whenever that pathway is available, but it will only send out signals across cellular if IP is down. This means that IP is the true primary communication pathway, and cellular is a true backup communication pathway for an AlarmNet System. Remember, any system that uses the Total Connect 2.0 interactive service platform is communicating through AlarmNet.

But for an Alarm.com Security System, this is handled a bit differently. When an Alarm.com System is set up for dual-path connectivity, it sends out signals across both IP and cellular simultaneously. Whichever signal reaches the Alarm.com servers first goes through, and the other signal is automatically discarded to prevent the same signal from being processed twice. Since IP is usually the faster communication path, it will typically be the IP signal going through, with the cellular signal being discarded. But if the IP signal fails, or if the cellular signal somehow reaches the intended destination first, then that signal will go through instead. It doesn't really matter which signal goes through, whether it is IP or cellular. As long as one signal reaches the Alarm.com servers, the desired outcome will be achieved.

If a user wants to set up cellular connectivity, and therefore dual-path connectivity, they will need to get a monitoring plan that includes cellular communication. Cellular monitoring plans usually cost more than IP monitoring plans due to the cellular network fees involved. This is to provide compensation to the company that maintains the cellular network being used. For Alarm Grid customers, this is usually either AT&T or Verizon. A cellular monitoring plan will usually also include IP connectivity at no extra charge. In other words, a cellular plan is basically synonymous with dual-path connectivity. But if you have an IP-only plan, then you would need to upgrade to a cellular plan if you want your system to use dual-path communication. Cellular connectivity, and therefore dual-path connectivity, is available with all Alarm Grid Gold and Platinum Level Plans, as well as our dedicated Cellular Monitoring Plan. Please review this post about our monitoring plans for more info. And make sure to visit our monitoring page if you are interested in signing up for new monitoring service.

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