Fire Alarms in Jeopardy: The 3G Sunset Threat

You’ve likely heard of 4G and 5G as it relates to your cell phone, but did you know it also applies to your facility’s fire alarm and security systems?

The “G”

The “G” stands for generation of wireless cellular technology, and we have to go way back to 1983 (think “Every Breath You Take” by the Police) for the first 1G device (clocking in at 2.4 kbps).

  • 3G – Skip to 2001 and we have 3G, transmitting at rates up to 7.2 Mbps which is fast enough to make smartphones practical. Prior to 3G, networks were too slow for us to enjoy the benefits of smartphones, such as downloading music, streaming videos, and surfing the internet.
  • 4G – Launched around 2009 and transmitting at rates up to 53.5 Mbps, 4G catapults smartphone technology, because at 7x the speed of 3G, it enables us to get web content near instantaneously.
  • 5G – Nearly a decade later and 5G is launched, representing the most current cell phone network tech, transmitting at up to 20 Gbps, and providing the essential element for mass IoT deployments, such as smart cities.

The Sunset

And yet, all this innovation comes with a price. To pivot to new technologies, cellular networks (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile) have begun to decommission their older 3G technology. This is the “3G Sunset.” The 3G Sunset means all cell phones and devices using 3G will become inoperable as soon as the 3G systems are decommissioned in that service area.

It is this decommissioning process which affects fire alarm monitoring and security systems. Many fire alarm and security systems installed prior to early 2018 are still on the 3G network. Without a radio upgrade to 4G, a 3G system will be unable to communicate with the Central Monitoring Station. The 3G system will still function and sound a local alarm but may not be able to make that call for help if your area has experienced the 3G Sunset.

Threat Avoidance

At this point, all major cellular companies have already begun their implementation of the 3G Sunset. Since this is a rolling change, the 3G sunset can happen at any time depending on your physical location. To maintain protection, all 3G equipment must be upgraded sooner rather than later.

Next Steps

The first step is to obtain an assessment of your current fire alarm system. Do not assume that your fire alarm monitoring company will proactively notify you of outdated equipment. Rather, have a certified fire alarm company evaluate your system and network for 4G compatibility. This is easily accomplished with a phone call to the fire alarm installation company of your choice.

The actual upgrade process is both seamless and affordable. Typical installation time for the upgrade is a few hours and does not result in any downtime, so it can be conducted during normal business hours and with no impact to your facility manager’s time.

CM3 provides complimentary 3G system assessments. Please reach out for more information.