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VoIP and Your Elevator Phones
With telecom costs continually on the rise, most would welcome the opportunity to streamline their systems. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is becoming increasingly common, particularly for commercial use. While potentially ideal for your building’s general telecommunications, there are challenges when trying to use VoIP with emergency phone systems (like the ones in your elevators).
Not a new technology itself, the foundation for VoIP was first developed in 1928 but was introduced to the public in 1995 as a way to save money on long-distance. Quite simply, VoIP allows you to make phone calls using an internet connection instead of a traditional plain old telephone service (POTS) line.
Traditional phone lines, whether you call them POTS, analog, or copper, are reliable, efficient, and have been in use since the 1880s. However, new technologies are making those lines obsolete, and large telecom companies (who are no longer training technicians on that old technology) have made it clear they will cease to service the lines on which we have historically relied upon for our phones.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages as you try to cut that ever-increasing phone bill and upgrade your public switched telephone network (PSTN) in favor of a new solution.
Advantages of VoIP
Cost was the initial reason VoIP gained popularity and that savings extend not only to the line but also to the hardware and software. Most systems allow you to use your current equipment.
Call quality, while initially quite poor, has improved through the use of high definition codes which encodes a digital data stream in order to transmit at a higher speed.
Maintenance– most VoIP systems are easy to configure and set up.
Flexibility has taken on a whole new meaning over the past year as much of the nation’s workforce has moved home. How many Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls have you been on this week? Whether you were using your PC or iPhone, you were able to do that through VoIP. It also allows you to make multiple calls at once (think conference and group calls).
Learn the basics of VoIP vs. landlines and other fundamental phone line information
Disadvantages of VoIP
Inconsistent dual-tone multifrequency(DTMF) makes communication difficult, especially when trying to retrieve information from or calling back into a dialer in a specific zone (or elevator).
Router configuration is critical in order for VoIP service to be delivered smoothly. This sometimes includes a router feature with packet prioritization which is used to manage network traffic. Voice traffic is typically given priority and requires more than average bandwidth to operate.
Power outages can have a significant impact on VoIP as no power to the router means there is no connection to the internet.
Other things to think about
VoIP offers features and benefits not available with a traditional landline and many times at a lower cost. Unfortunately, VoIP is not a one size fits all solution and there are a few circumstances where it is not code compliant. One of those use cases is your elevator emergency phone. One of the most critical code issues related to VoIP and your elevator emergency phone is call location tracking. With VoIP, the monitoring party may be unable to identify an entrapped passenger’s location (and specifically which elevator cab they are calling from) without aid from the caller as required by elevator code.
Elevator phones are often an afterthought when making a telephony change and are easily missed even in the most robust telephony project. And by missed, I mean we’ve discovered elevator emergency phones that were left completely disconnected. A working phone without location identification may not be code compliant but it’s better than no phone at all. Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate risk and liability exposure, increase safety and reliability, and manage tenant experience in your elevator while saving money.
Cellular is the most viable option. This solution uses an ADA-compliant hands-free phone but completely eliminates your dependence on POTS lines. A cellular transceiver is placed outside of the concrete and steel-lined shaft with the cellular unit positioned for signal strength and access to power. The signal is sent via cellular communicator but copper wiring is still required to connect that communicator to the elevator.
We understand elevator phones might be close to the last thing on your mind, but we’re here to help. Code compliant emergency monitoring and response in areas not often thought about is our entire business. Regardless of who monitors your onsite emergency phones, we encourage you to review our Kings III recommended minimum standards for elevator phone monitoring. These standards cover code compliance as well as performance, safety, and risk-mitigating measures we developed for elevator consultants and believe every property manager and owner should evaluate their systems against.
A great starting point is simply testing your elevator phones regularly. It is critical and in doing so, make sure the operator can identify not just the building but also the elevator cab you are calling from, without your help. Talk to an expert to learn more about code-compliant elevator emergency phone solutions.
Kings III’s cellular solution- Skyline
Here at Kings III, we refer to our turnkey cellular solution as Skyline. Kings III Skyline leverages cellular networks and eliminates a dependency on traditional POTS lines or VoIP as well as the need to sign up with a carrier. Utilizing the buildings existing copper wiring and a 120v ac outlet (with battery backup), this two-piece option uses a traditional ADA compliant handsfree phone in the elevator cab and a cellular transceiver located to achieve optimal signal strength outside the elevator shaft.
What’s more is we have confirmed historically our Emergency Dispatch Center receives calls faster using the Skyline system and has proven more reliable in a natural disaster.