Shaw Digital Phone and Alarms

There used to be an image here.

**** UPDATE¬† Shaw got upset with me for using an image from their website (so it’s gone now). I’ve also added a (TM) beside every instance of their trademark Shaw Digital Phone (TM). ****

I received a flyer for Shaw Digital Phone (TM) at my house today that claims that they are signing up a new client every 96 seconds, which may very well be true. However, on the inside of the brochure, it claims that “…unlike VoIP, the Internet based phone service, Shaw Digital Phone (TM) requires no computer or high-speed internet connection.” While it is true that you do not need a computer or internet account to use their service, their inference that Shaw Digital Phone (TM) is not VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) is absolutely untrue.

Further, the brochure also says “No additional fees. No extra charges. And no surprises.” … in speaking with our clients who have either contemplated, or actually switched to Shaw, they have all been VERY surprised to hear our concerns about Shaw Digital Phone (TM)’s effect on their alarm system. Especially given that Shaw’s website specifically says that their service is compatible with alarm systems and suggests that if your existing alarm provider cannot support Shaw Digital Phone (TM) , they have a ‘preferred vendor’, Voxcom Security, and claim that their systems are ‘fully compatible’

As you can see in this page from Shaw’s site regarding their service and alarm systems, their language differs a little from their brochure when they say “unlike some VoIP services…” (emphasis is mine) which correctly implies that Shaw’s service is a form of VoIP. As I wrote in a post on this issue a few months back (the most popular post on this blog, as it turns out) Shaw Digital Phone (TM) is most definitely a VoIP service… it is the type of VoIP that differentiates it from other VoIP providers like Vonage, but it is still a VoIP service.

Voxcom, like Provident, is an alarm service PROVIDER… not a manufacturer of alarm equipment or network provider. The reason alarm systems do not work consistently over VoIP service has nothing to do with the alarm equipment or the monitoring station where the alarm sends its signals, alarm systems do not work consistently with VoIP because the network that connects the two is not designed to transmit alarm signals. Neither Voxcom, or any alarm company, can claim to be able to offer any type of service that is capable of addressing this issue.

Presently, no major alarm equipment manufacturer (Tyco, GE and Honeywell) or cable company (including Shaw) will provide a written certification that alarm signals can reliably be sent using VoIP. While both the alarm and cable industries are working hard to be able to offer some type of certification, it still does not yet exist.

As I stated in my first post about this issue, our experience has shown that signal transmission using Shaw Digital Phone (TM) is inconsistent. Even if a signal is sent and received over the system once, there is no guarantee that it will work properly the second time.

To be fair to both Shaw and Voxcom, our own testing has shown that while not all alarm equipment can transmit over VoIP, those that do, are able to send signals every time that we tested… eventually. Sometimes, we received the alarm signals a full three minutes after we received it over a regular Telus analog phone line. Our major concern is the speed with which the signals are received. For a company like Voxcom, ADT or any of the other alarm company that does not provide immediate alarm response, a couple minutes of delay in receiving the signal is not a major issue because it will have little to no impact on how quickly the Police will arrive after they are dispatched.

However, in our case, where we guarantee a five minute response to alarms and regularly respond within just a couple of minutes… every second counts. Waiting an extra two minutes for an alarm signal to get to us makes a huge impact on our ability to offer maximum value to our clients.

Imagine the potential damage if the signal being sent is a fire signal from a smoke detector, and the alarm monitoring station only begins to try and dispatch the Fire Department three minutes later.

My biggest frustration with the Shaw service is that I feel that they are deliberately misleading people to believe that their service is not VoIP in order to avoid the public confusing their service with those provided by Vonage or other ‘regular’ VoIP providers… especially given all of the negative publicity that VoIP providers have received regarding 911 service. To that end, many Shaw employees have been told that their service is not VoIP and that it is equivalent to an analog telephone line. I have spoken now with at least a half dozen Shaw employees who have tried to argue that Shaw Digital Phone (TM) is not VoIP. As detailed in my first post, the difference between Shaw and other VoIP providers is that Shaw (like every other cable provider in North America) uses a “facilitated” VoIP network rather than an “unfacilitated” VoIP network that Vonage and other non-cable companies use.

The bottom line?

We STRONGLY recommend that clients who decide to use Shaw Digital Phone (TM) utilize a back-up method of communication such as cellular or Internet back-up to ensure that alarm and fire signals are received by our Operations Centre as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency.

For those who decide to rely on Shaw Digital Phone (TM) as the only means of communication for their alarm, we are requiring that they sign a waiver saying that they understand our concerns about this service and the potential risk that it poses to their alarm system.

While I have no doubts that most, if not all, telephone service will be VoIP in the near future, and that the alarm transmission issues will be addressed (they have been working on it for more than 3 years already), the fact remains that the network is still unreliable for alarm transmission at the present time.

Should you have any questions, please call our office at 604.664.1087

Click here to be notified every time this blog gets updated.

* Shaw Digital Phone is a registered trademark of Shaw Communications Inc.

Back to Blog