T-Mobile roaming won’t save alarm industry from AT&T’s 3G shutdown: AICC

A last-minute shift from AT&T’s 3G network to a roaming bridge provided by T-Mobile is not enough to save the day for the alarm industry, according to the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC).

The AAIC made an additional filing on Thursday asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to intervene on its behalf and force AT&T to delay the shutdown of its 3G network. At stake are systems like fire alarms, personal medical alert devices, home intrusion alert systems and other devices using AT&T’s 3G network that haven’t been converted to newer systems.

The additional plea from AAIC came after AT&T on Tuesday said that at the FCC’s urging, it’s using “roaming options to bridge the IoT transition.”

AICC was notified later that day by the FCC’s staff of an agreement between AT&T and T-Mobile providing for roaming by AT&T’s 3G customers onto T-Mobile’s 3G network. AT&T is shutting down its 3G network on Tuesday, February 22, while T-Mobile will continue operating its 3G network until July 1, 2022.

“Members of the AICC have rapidly explored the possible use of this roaming agreement as an interim solution to allow alarm companies an additional four months in which to replace certain existing 3G alarm radios with 4G devices,” AICC told the FCC in its filing. “With only five days left before AT&T plans to shut down its 3G network, there is simply not enough time for such arrangements to be made, and the actual roaming logistics implemented.”

Therefore, the AICC is asking for an immediate extension to allow the process to play out. “AICC respectfully requests that the FCC issue an Order directing AT&T to delay decommissioning its 3G network and services until there has been time for affected parties to take advantage of the roaming option that was just announced two days ago,” the organization wrote. “Such extension should be for at least 60 to 70 days, at which time the Commission can determine if any further extension is needed.”

RELATED: AT&T says alarm industry is trying to ‘slam the brakes’ on its 3G shutdown

AT&T told Fierce that it had no further comment today. Earlier this week, the company said it was not going to extend the 3G network shutdown past this coming Tuesday, February 22. It also argues that it’s not within the FCC’s authority to prevent it from shutting it down.

Roaming relief as ‘fake news’

“We absolutely need the extension of the sunset,” AICC spokesman John Brady told Fierce on Friday. “I’ll work as hard as I can but I’m not going to get it done in four days.”

AICC officials talked with an AT&T representative on February 15 and the company reiterated there would be no extension; however, a roaming option from T-Mobile was being made available.  

Ideally, a master agreement would follow suit, but Brady said AT&T was not agreeable to that.

“We suggested that it would be impossible to get 13,000 alarm companies to be able to negotiate individually with AT&T before next Tuesday” and that if indeed roaming was a viable alternative, then “we needed to understand more about it from a technological point of view,” he said.

“It did allow us a little time to find out that quite frankly, the T-Mobile offering is fake news,” he said. “It is not a viable option that will be ready by next Tuesday. The majority of the industry is not even on the right platform … to allow for roaming,” he said. “There certainly are some,” but AICC doesn’t know how many.  

A T-Mobile spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment on Friday.

AT&T is making it sound like the T-Mobile solution is easily available, and “it is absolutely not easily available,” Brady said. He talked to an AT&T rep for Connect America and asked them to walk through why he couldn’t roam onto the T-Mobile network. “They were very clear with their technical people that we were not on the right platform” for roaming, he said. Some well-known aggregators also checked and could not roam, he added.

Many of the alarm radios set up on a newer Cisco Jasper platform apparently can be adapted for roaming, but other 3G alarm radios aren’t adaptable, especially emergency medical response units widely used by the elderly, according to the AICC filing. The solution also won’t help 3G-based alarm customers where T-Mobile doesn’t have 3G coverage.

AICC was on the phone with commission members today. “Everyone’s got the same impression that ‘oh, this is taken care of, don’t worry about it.’ And it’s so far from not being taken care of, and there’s all still the same jeopardy that we’ve been talking about,” Brady said. “Our feeling is the FCC has a right to request an extension of the sunset,” so they’re working up to the last minute to get an extension.