I'm looking for an alarm system for a remote vacation home. I'm trying to find something that is relatively inexpensive, but still a "pro grade" system so that it'll have fairly good reliability, operating temperature range (the building will be unheated), and a decent selection of sensors.
The other requirement is cell connectivity. It seems like this is a must-have for a remote location, even if you have a land-line. While cell connectivity seems to be growing in popularity, I'm wondering how traditional systems guarded against the line being cut? I seem to recall that local phone companies once offered a service where they could monitor for line cuts, but I haven't seen that advertised in a long time. I suppose an alarm monitoring company could get a dry pair installed to the house and do their own cut line monitoring, but that would be expensive, and if it once was common, it doesn't seem to be today.
So given this, I started looking at the GE Simon product line, which has a GSM module available and a good selection of reasonably priced sensors. I like the Simon XT panel best, but found a much better deal for a Simon 3 when including the radio cost:
Simon XT $90 + GSM $213 = $303 Simon 3 $70 + GSM $43 = $113
Then further research turned up that these GSM modules are really GPRS data transceivers that are designed specifically to work with the alarm.com monitoring service, and are useless without that service.
Aside from the fact that the alarm.com monitoring service costs 2 to 3 times ($20 - $40) what a basic monitoring service costs ($10 - $20), I was hoping to keep my options open to permit self-monitoring, which would require the ability to use the GSM radio to contact me directly (SMS, email, or voice).
That seems to suggest that my only option is one of the generic GSM boxes that simulate a dialtone for the alarm panel. I see RISCO Group makes one that can be had for about $235 and will work with a pre-paid cell service.
This ends up being more expensive than the Simon 3 solution, and gives up the remote control capabilities provided by the GPRS/alarm.com approach. Though I suppose most panels provide some remote control capability over the phone.
Are there any alarm panels on the market that offer integrated GSM like the GE Simon line, where you get both GPRS for the monitoring company and voice GSM for self-monitoring applications?
RISCO Group offers a version of their GSM box that integrates with their WisDom panel, supposedly making use of GPRS, but some have suggested that this version then precludes using it as a GSM voice notifier. (Also, I did a price comparison of the panel + peripherals and came to about $1000 for the WisDom, which seems less widely sold, compared to $500 ~ $700 for the GE Simon.)
Lastly, I've seen mixed indicators as to whether the Simon 3 supports direct voice notification of alarm conditions via telephone. Some sources say it doesn't. Some say you need the optional DTIM dialer (normally used with the Allegro). And yet some of the GE documentation indicates that it has built-in voice notification and the ability to accept at least one user-defined number.
The Simon 3 I'd be purchasing would be "unlocked." Perhaps what I'm seeing is more a reflection of the restricted way most alarm companies configure these for their customers?
I'm also considering the GE Allegro, but I can't find the Allegro panel priced as aggressively as the Simon line. Few places carry it. It runs about $127 for the panel and DTIM. Bundled with peripherals (including a generic GSM radio) it works out to be about $25 less than a Simon XT bundle that includes a $60 remote keypad, and almost $100 more than a Simon 3 bundle using the GPRS radio.