Landline vs Cellular Home Security Systems (Quick Guide)

For a home security system to be monitored remotely, it must be connected to the outside world. There are a few common ways this communication can be handled, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages.

Landline home security systems work by using the telephone line to communicate with you or the security provider. In comparison, cellular home security systems use the cellular network. A landline security system can have a cellular backup, effectively combining both home security systems together.

Landline vs Cellular Home Security

When people are talking about cellular vs. landline home security, there are some misconceptions that tend to get in the way.

In this article, I will be comparing how these two types of home security work. I go more in-depth at what you can expect to see on the market today and why it matters to you as a homeowner.

How Landline Home Security Works

Landline home security systems work using your phone line to communicate with the monitoring security center. Usually, the different security cameras, devices, and sensors are hardwired. They use a network of wires to connect to a control panel which is connected to the phone line and the monitoring provider.

If an alarm is triggered, the landline home security system will use the phone line to alert the monitoring company. However, if the homeowner is using their phone at the same time, the system can take over the phone line and drop the call.

This is the standard way older home security systems used to work. But with the decrease in demand, phone lines and landline home security systems are being slowly phased out.

Landline Home Security Pros Landline Home Security Cons
Landline home security has cheaper monitoring Landline home security can be disabled
May not require an independent power source Lacks home automation and other smart features
Landline home security is very reliable Requires a landline in order to work
  Landline home security is often hardwired and difficult to move
  High installation costs

 

How Cellular Home Security Works

Cellular home security sends a radio wave that travels through the air to nearby cell towers. From there, the radio signal is sent to the monitoring provider. With cellular home security systems, the communication between the different security cameras, sensors, and devices and the central control panel can be handled wirelessly or through a network of wires.

Cellular home security systems use a sim card to connect to the cellular network, much like your mobile phone.

Sometimes cellular home security systems are referred to as wireless. While this is technically true since wires are not used, they should not be confused with wireless home security systems which use your WiFi internet connection.

However, both landline and WiFi home security systems can have a cellular backup.

Cellular Home Security Pros Cellular Home Security Cons
Cellular home security is considered more reliable Cellular home security has higher monthly costs
It can often offer smart features and automation Usually requires a battery backup
Can be easier to move to a new home May not work properly in areas with poor reception
Cellular home security is easy to install and set up  
Communication tends to be faster  

 

Difference Between Landline and Cellular Home Security Systems

The difference between landline and cellular home security systems is in how they work. Landline home security systems are hardwired and use the phone line to communicate with the monitoring team. Cellular home security uses the cellular network for communication with the security team and the homeowner.

 

Availability

Cellular backup usually comes with a monitoring plan, and very rarely is it offered as a separate item that you can choose.

This can be an issue since not all homeowners are interested in paying for a monitoring plan due to a number of different reasons like a higher incidence of false alarms they may be experiencing, the necessity of acquiring an alarm permit, or simply professional monitoring is not worth it to them, and they are unwilling to pay the higher costs associated with it.

Before, some home security companies offered cellular backup at very low prices with no professional monitoring.

For example, today, Scout and SimpliSafe offer cellular backup and no professional monitoring. Abode also used to offer such plans, but they have discontinued them.

On the other hand, landline home security faces other issues because fewer homes have phone lines, and generally, fewer people need a phone line. As a result, this is considered an older technology and is being slowly phased out, and many homeowners end up using a wireless home security system.

 

Costs

Usually, most modern home security systems offer cellular connectivity only as an extra backup feature and, although possible, they are not intended to work using it all the time.

Homeowners living in buildings with no internet or landlines may be left with the only option to use the cellular backup feature for monitoring, but this can result in steep mobile data fees in certain instances—especially if you are using a limited mobile data plan.

The cost of mobile data plans can vary, but even home security systems that offer a cellular backup with no professional monitoring (leaving the owner to do the monitoring for themselves) start at about $10 per month.

Landline home security systems are cheaper for security companies to monitor since they use an already existing infrastructure (your phone line) at no additional cost. However, if a landline home security system has a cellular backup, its monthly costs will be higher.

 

Installation

Installing landline home security systems, especially if the equipment is all hardwired, can be a long and difficult process. Drilling, running wires, and other slight modifications may be necessary. This means that often these systems require a professionally trained technician to install them.

But mistakes can always happen, and for example, hitting an electrical cable or a water line can be particularly problematic and lead to a lot of additional expenses.

Landline security systems can be difficult to move without the involvement of additional removal and installation costs, which can be fairly steep sometimes.

In comparison, cellular home security systems can be a lot easier to install. Some can be completely wireless and DIY. This cuts down on installation costs and makes these systems a lot more versatile, mobile, and easier to set up.

 

Features and Capabilities

Landline home security systems generally do not offer home automation and are not compatible with many smart devices.

This means that cellular home security systems can be more advanced than a typical landline security system because they are compatible with more advanced technology.

However, there may not be any difference in some cases, for example, when using a landline home security system with a cellular backup.

 

Is Landline or Cellular Home Security Safer?

Cellular home security systems are considered safer because they have better reliability, uptime, versatility, ease of use, and they are harder to tamper with than landline home security systems. Landline home security systems are not as safe since an experienced burglar may be able to disable them.

While the majority of the home security systems today are using wireless or cellular technology to work, eliminating the need to have a landline, there are still some home security systems that require a landline in order to work.

Many homeowners find having a cellular backup a must-have regardless of the type of home security system they own. The advantage of having a cellular backup is that it can be extremely reliable, and it all comes down to uptime.

Both landline and wireless home security systems can have some vulnerabilities. Power can go out, wires can be cut, and the internet can go down, and each one of these can spell trouble and effectively prevent a home security system from doing its job.

Almost everybody has experienced some of these.

On the other hand, cellular backup is extremely reliable in many cases. Nonetheless, cellular home security systems may be problematic in remote areas with weak coverage.

Losing the cellular signal means the system will not be able to work correctly.

Cellular and WiFi signals are susceptible to interference from other devices or bad weather, too.

Another thing worth noting is that security systems need to be powered in order to work.

A landline home security system may continue working if the power goes out since it can draw small amounts of power through the telephone line. However, a cellular home security system will stop working in a power outage unless it has a battery backup. The battery will keep the cellular home security system operating for a limited amount of time, so frequent blackouts can eventually prevent the system from functioning.

Alternatively, homeowners can use an LTE modem which can be used to distribute WiFi internet using the cellular network and can be used by a WiFi home security system that may not technically have a cellular backup.

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