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Wired or Wireless, Which Medical Alert System is Right for You?


October 11, 2015

Since the invention of the telephone in the 1870's, its technology remained largely unchanged. However, over the last decade there has been a shift away from traditional landline services. The CDC reported last December that about 36% of U.S. households have gone "wireless-only." That's nearly triple the rate from 2007. What does it mean for those of us who may be considering a medical alert system?

Traditional phone wire transmits an electrical signal back and forth between a central office and the consumers on an individual twisted copper cable. Skip a head a little over 100 years you can see that talking to someone has evolved to include the use of cellular (radio waves) and internet (VoIP) as well as the traditional landline (POTS). The invention of fiber optic cables, which are composed of hundreds of finely shredded high quality glass coated in plastic, compress wireless cellular (radio waves) and internet (VoIP) signals into a digital format allowing much larger and faster data transfers over longer distances for less of a cost to the telecom companies than traditional copper cables (POTS).

Now that so many people are exchanging their landline for wireless service major telecom companies, like AT&T and Verizon, are asking the FCC to withdraw from such old fashioned services. According to these companies, the regulations that call for maintenance of outdated copper lines interferes with the advancement of newer technologies by using money that could be better spent on upgrades to wireless services.* Although consumers are choosing to go wireless, these companies have growing cable and internet businesses that utilize the copper infrastructure so it's not probable that either of these telecom giants will let go of their landline service anytime soon. The question is will they keep supporting it and how much would it cost us if they do?

Some of the things we usually think about between POTS and the different wireless options available are call clarity, tonal quality, signal reliability, and price. Lets not forget that if you plug in your medical alert device into a digital system there is a possibility it may not work. In the worst case scenario you could end up frying the insides. This may happen if the medical alert unit is analog. Luckily, there are fairly inexpensive digital filters that not only let you use your analog devices in a digital environment but also help protect against zapping the internal circuitry of your device.

Despite the drop in usage of conventional landlines, they remain a large portion of revenue for companies like AT&T and Verizon. Nonetheless, both companies are looking into the possibility of dropping much of their landline business in rural areas and are pushing the use of digital bundles in urban communities. Both companies hope that this strategy will draw people in allowing for a change to their infrastructures.

The future of the landline is more of a transition from copper lines to wireless, which include cellular and internet forms of communication. For those of us who still have traditional landlines and already own medical alert systems I recommend keeping them. For those who have a wireless setup the good news is that our medical alert systems now accommodate cellular as well. However, buyer beware, if you own a cell phone you already know your connection varies with signal strength sometimes resulting in a dropped call. Our cellular units are no exception as they operate on the same cellular towers as your mobile phone does.

*Information located in video on AT&T website.

Do you or your loved ones still have your landline or have you gone "wireless"? We'd love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

Coverage Area

Our Medical Alert Systems are available in the following states across America: