Communications companies entering N.L. home security market

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on January 25, 2013
Bell Aliant and its competitor Rogers Cable will soon offer home security services in addition to telephone and television services to homes in the province.  — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Communications companies will soon be competing in the home security market in Newfoundland, but local experts are skeptical.

Bell Aliant and Rogers both announced Thursday they would soon offer home security and automation systems in the province. Both will build on the companies’ Internet infrastructure to allow real-time monitoring and remote access for customers via smartphones and computers, as well as control of lights, thermostats and appliances through those devices.

Karen Sheriff, Bell Aliant’s CEO, said their fibre-optic network gives the company “a ton of expertise” to offer a product like its NextGen home security service.

“The next-generation home-security and monitoring product that we’re offering is very different than the kind of home security that you might have seen or had in the past,” she said. “We think we do it as well or better than anybody, because we really know the technology.”

The same technician that installs customers’ cable internet systems will be able to install this, she said.

And while Bell Aliant announced Thursday it will be the first to come to Atlantic Canada — Sheriff said Bell Aliant’s home-security packages will be available in the spring — Rogers Communications also announced Thursday that its own smart-home offerings will be “coming soon,” to Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

Ian Pattinson, who is vice-president and general manager of Rogers’ Smart Home monitoring division, said that the timing is coincidental.

“We’ve been working on this for quite a while,” he said.

“Our primary requirement has been building full French-Canadian support into the platform. We’ve just been going through our final testing on that, as well as all of our final regulatory approvals for Atlantic Canada.”

 

Both Rogers and Bell say they’re less concerned about convincing customers to leave current home security providers, but they hope to tap into a larger, untapped customer base.

“There’s going to be a set of customers that will leave their current providers and come to us, and certainly we’re competitive and we’ll fight this competitively, but I think a big part of this product will be expanding the category,” said Dan McKeen, Bell Aliant’s senior vice-president of customer solutions, pointing to the automation aspects of the product, such as remotely controlling thermostats and doors.

Pattinson similarly said the automation will open new markets, which is what they’re targeting rather than stealing a share of what is traditionally a small market.

“Typical penetration in the Ontario market is about 18 or 19 per cent for traditional home security systems,” he said. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of new customers that have come on board that want the more advanced home automation and energy-management functionality, not just traditional burglarly protection.”

Local home-security providers were skeptical that their incoming larger competitors will be much of a threat, though.

Wayne Squires, owner of Electronic Centre, said he doubted communications companies would find much success outside of their core product offerings like cable and Internet service.

“Most of the telcos across the nation have jumped into it at one time or another and jumped back out again,” he said. “It’s not their core business. And like so many other things in the telcos, when times are tough they try to get into everything, and then there’s no return to the rate base, and then they start getting investors and shareholders upset and they jump out of it again.”

John Power of Alarm Power said he wasn’t too worried about competition.

“I’m not too overly concerned about it, because I know that they’re going to be a lot higher in price, for one thing, I would be thinking.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

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