ADT asks for extension to analog wireless sunset

ADT Security Services, a large provider of security alarm systems for homes and businesses, plans to file a request asking the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay the 2008 sunset in which wireless telephone carriers can stop supporting their analog networks.

ADT will ask the FCC for a two-year extension to the Feb. 18, 2008, deadline. ADT, in a request to be filed by Thursday, will say that more than 1 million security-alarm customers across the U.S. continue to use equipment sending analog signals back to ADT and other alarm-monitoring firms.

Digital radios for security alarms have only been available for six months, from just one vendor, and the security-alarm industry doesn't have enough qualified installation workers to convert all its customers to digital radios, said Phillip McVey, vice president of business operations for ADT North America.

Without an extension, many security-alarm customers could be left without service, including about 1,000 ADT customers who have a special panic-button service for victims of domestic abuse, ADT officials said in a press briefing Wednesday.

"Given the nature of the services provided ... we think its reasonable and, more importantly, responsible to ask for an extension," McVey said.

The FCC established the 2008 sunset on the maintenance of advanced mobile phone services analog systems during a 2000 proceeding, but debate then didn't focus on the effect on the security-alarm industry, said John Prendergast, a lawyer representing ADT. A fast transition to digital modems would create a "significant" expense for ADT, McVey added.

In addition to a lack of digital modems in customers' homes, there is poor digital coverage in some areas of the country, including parts of Virginia, Iowa, Illinois and Arizona, ADT said. "In these areas, installation of digital equipment would lead to poor or no services, putting ADT's customers at risk that their alarm signal could not be transmitted," ADT said in its filing to the FCC.

Representatives of large wireless carriers Verizon Wireless Inc. and Cingular Wireless LLC didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment on ADT's request, but Cingular in a February filing said it supports the 2008 sunset. Maintaining the analog network is a significant financial burden for wireless carriers, Cingular said.

"Discontinuance of analog service should have minimal impact on the public because there are very few customers that rely on analog service," Cingular said in its report.

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