Security Platforms/Tools

AT&T's Home Security Service to Go BYOB

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is prepping the national launch of a home security and automation service that will apply pressure on the market's leading incumbent, ADT Security Services Inc., and put it in the running with MSOs and other telcos pursuing the space.

The new service, called Digital Life, will let customers use a range of IP-connected devices, including PCs, tablets and smartphones, to remotely handle home monitoring and security tasks such as setting temperatures, responding to alarms, locking and unlocking doors, and accessing security cameras. The system will feed data and provide the automation via a mix of Wi-Fi and Z-Wave on the wireless end, as well as with home wired broadband connections.

In a twist that will set up AT&T to market the service anywhere in the U.S., the telco is leaning on a "bring-your-own" model that lets customers use any broadband ISP or wireless carrier to access the Digital Life service. Most cable operators that already offer similar services require customers to get broadband from the MSO. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), however, is using the bring-your-own-broadband approach for its home security/automation service too.

AT&T plans to trial Digital Life in Dallas and Atlanta this summer, followed later by a nationwide launch. The company has also set up a separate Digital Life business unit to run the new service. AT&T will own and operate Digital Life's security monitoring centers.

AT&T signaled its intentions for the market about two years ago when it acquired Xanboo Inc., a pioneer in the home automation market. (See AT&T Dives Deeper Into the Smart Home.)

Why this matters
Home monitoring and security has become a hot area for service providers as they seek out new revenue-generating services and growth opportunities. Several other North American telcos and MSOs, including Verizon, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) and Cox Communications Inc. , are at various stages of deployment. Among them, Comcast intends to have its Xfinity Home service deployed to most markets by year's end.

While they're all going after a somewhat fragmented market led by ADT (the top three providers represent just 30 percent of the market), questions have emerged as to whether there are enough revenues and profits up for grab for large service providers to turn home security and home automation into material businesses in the next five years.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:33:56 PM
re: AT&T's Home Security Service to Go BYOB

It's worth noting that AT&T's offering appears to be BYOB up to a point. You can use any wired broadband and you can check in on the system and adjust settings using any wireless connection. But if you want to use wireless to send an alarm to the central monitoring station, it appears that you have to use AT&T.

When alarm systems use wireless for that purpose, they need their own transmitter. AT&T's security system comes with built-in AT&T mobile Internet service. It will be separate from the home owner's own wireless service. AT&T probably will build the cost into whatever its monthly charge is.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:33:48 PM
re: AT&T's Home Security Service to Go BYOB

That's true. I'm sure it's not, ahem, on purpose, but they can throw people off when they say the service can be controlled remotely "from smartphones, tablets and PCs, regardless of carrier."  But they do express the need for the ATT transmitter, so, you're absolutely right that the devil is in the details on this BYOB'ish approach. JB


joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:33:45 PM
re: AT&T's Home Security Service to Go BYOB

In fairness to AT&T, the people buying the offering probably wouldn't think of this as being forced to use AT&T wireless since they're only forced to do that for the alarm & apparently only if they want the alarm to communicate wirelessly. The customers' own cellphone account can still be whatever they want & like I said, I wouldn't think they would get a bill for the wireless alarm connection. Instead it will just be part of the monthly monitoring charge.

Some might say it's just a detail. But I do think someone reading the release could easily take it to mean that the alarm system itself can use any wireless service for communication and that doesn't seem to be the case.

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