A basic guide to understanding the technology and using it to your advantage.

Part 1 What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.

Before we dive into VoIP let’s take a quick history lesson.

We are all familiar with analog / POTS (plain old telephone service) phone lines.

This service was provided by ILEC’s (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) like the  Regional Bell Operating Company’s and AT&T or CLEC’s (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) like XO Communications, MCI, Global Crossing, etc.

When you wanted to make a phone call back then, you were using a pair of copper wires that went in and out of multiple CO’s (Central Office), thru a bunch of relays and ultimately borrowed for short term use of a pair of dedicated copper wires from point A to point B.

Although we occasionally had problems, our alarm panels worked pretty good on these old fashioned POTS lines.

Let’s jump forward.

There are a few ways to define what VoIP is.
Any technology that takes an analog audio signal, like a phone call or alarm signal, and converts it into a digital signal that can be transmitted over a IP connection.

Any technology that allows an analog phone call or alarm signal to be carried across an Internet based or proprietary IP infrastructure network.

I use the term proprietary IP infrastructure as Cable providers vow there services are not “VoIP” because the traffic is not carried across the Internet but rather their proprietary IP network.  This may be in part a true statement however it’s misleading as the alarm signals are still being carried across their IP based infrastructure.  Hence it’s still Voice over IP.

Now that we know what VoIP is let’s take a look at how it works and more importantly why it doesn’t always work for security system’s and alarm communicators and how it can affect your central station alarm monitoring.

How VoIP works can get into very complicated terms so let’s illustrate with a simple example. Do you remember using a microphone connected to your computer to record a message or a song? A computer uses samples of the sound and stores them in tiny bits on your computer. When you playback what you just recorded the computer attempts to take all the little bits or pieces of your message or song and assembles them together mostly in the correct order.

VoIP uses somewhat the same technology whereas it takes your analog phone call or alarm message, breaks it down into small little bits, assemblies these bits into packets of data and prepares the packets for transmission. Once the packets are prepared they are sent across the Internet or proprietary IP infrastructure towards the ultimate destination. Once they are received, all these packets are collected and re-assembled back into some form of the original message.

A single IP packet typically contains about 10 milliseconds of audio or alarm message. A typical alarm message can be 15 seconds. Based on that your alarm signal has been cut up into around 1000 bits or pieces.  Those 1000 pieces are then transmitted across a IP path. At the destination all those 1000 pieces are collected and reassembled back into some semblance of the original message or alarm signal. 

Now that you have a basic understanding let’s take a simple look at the same idea in a different way.

Take 1000 post cards and number all the cards 1 thru 1000.  Address all the post cards to go “home” and leave them in numerical order. Now fly to any destination you want to visit on the other side of the country. Take all the post cards and drop them in the same mailbox at the same time. Fly back home and start checking the mail.  Would you expect all 1000 post cards to arrive at the same time in the proper order?  Probably not.

What will realistically happen is the cards will arrive in random batch’s and groups on different days.  There is a good chance one or two of the post cards will get lost.

Now visualize repeating this process hundreds or thousands of times a day, how many failures would you expect?  Alarm systems that are utilizing VoIP communications go thru that process every time it sends a signal.

How many failures would you expect to see from the central station and how many problems with your alarm monitoring would you expect to see in a day?

Next we will review why you should us VoIP. READ NEXT >

For more information or to see how Command Alarm can help our independent alarm business succeed, contact us at: 855.226.7233 or INFO@COMMANDALARMMONITORING.COM

Mike Riley {} is DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL STATION OPERATIONS at Command Alarm Monitoring, a national central alarm monitoring service, servicing independent alarm installers nationwide.


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