Emergency Lift Phones Update
June 27, 2022
Most building owners are aware that the copper line network is about to be permanently decommissioned following the nbn network roll-out across Australia.
In addition to the shutdown of the copper network, another serious issue exists, and many building owners are completely unaware of the implications they face.
During the nbn roll-out, many lift companies sold and installed their own 3G cellular gateway solutions to clients as upgrades for their lift emergency phone systems. Thousands of these units are now in service, and most of these building owners are under the false impression that the upgraded lift emergency phones will continue to remain operational.
Unfortunately, the existing 3G cellular network is also in the process of being decommissioned.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have all adopted different paths towards the final shutdown of their 3G services. Each of the major providers has limited spectrum for 3G, 4G and 5G services, so to provide increased coverage for 4G and 5G, they have needed to reduce their 3G coverage. This process is commonly referred to as “re-farming” and also occurred during the shutdown of the 2G network.
Telstra ceased using the 2,100Mhz frequency for 3G across Australia in March 2019 and committed to switching off all remaining 850Mhz 3G coverage by June 2024.
Optus ceased using the 2100Mhz spectrum for 3G services from May 2022 and re-allocated the spectrum to their 4G & 5G networks. Optus is expected to follow a similar path to Telstra in shutting down all remaining 900Mhz 3G coverage; however, their final dates have yet to be confirmed.
Vodafone ceased using 2100Mhz for 3G coverage during 2019 but continues using 850Mhz for 3G coverage. They have not yet provided dates for the final shutdown of their remaining 850Mhz 3G coverage but are expected to follow a similar path as Telstra & Optus. Vodafone has indicated they would like to continue offering 3G coverage in rural areas with poor 4G and 5G coverage, provided the Government allows them to purchase an additional 900Mhz spectrum at auction in late 2022. It remains unknown whether this will occur.
How will the 3G network shutdown affect lift emergency phones?
Lift emergency phone systems that were previously upgraded to 3G cellular technology will need to be upgraded again, at additional cost, but this time to 4G or 5G technology.
The easy option might be to talk to your lift service provider; however, this may not always produce the best results for your Body Corporate. Most lift companies will typically sell you their own “preferred” solution.
Often, lift company-supplied emergency phone systems come with ongoing (and sometimes excessive) fees. Worse still, some solutions are designed to ‘lock’ owners to the lift company for ongoing maintenance & equipment monitoring services. This means that if you choose to change lift service providers in the future, “proprietary” systems will need to be replaced again (at a significant additional cost) by the new lift service provider, just to keep the lift emergency phones working.
Equity recommends that lift emergency phone system upgrades include a 3rd party-supplied 4G/5G cellular gateway, suitable for use with any of the major lift companies. In addition, systems should include dual modems & dual SIM technology with self-diagnostic capability and regular external monitoring of network connections & battery backup to ensure the phones remains operational in an emergency.
Making the wrong choice can be very costly for your Body Corporate. Future upgrades to 4G or 5G are not typically included with lift company-provided systems, so additional costs will be incurred as cellular networks continue to evolve. On a positive note, some 3rd party supplied cellular gateways are designed to allow ‘modular’ upgrades from 4G to 5G. Depending on the system provider, future upgrades can be provided at no additional cost as part of a service package.
If you choose your lift emergency phone system wisely, it will provide safe & reliable operation for many years, even if you change lift companies. An independent lift consultant can provide you with free, unbiased advice and ensure you make the right choices for your Body Corporate.
Finally, a quick reminder to check the current operation of lift phones. It’s disturbing that many of the lifts we inspect, even relatively new ones, often have lift emergency phones that are not working correctly. Unfortunately, most lift phone systems are not externally monitored for network connection or power/battery status, and sometimes, they can be out of service for weeks or months before a problem is even identified. This is a serious safety issue & potentially life-threatening.
Under QLD WH&S Act 2011, building owners have a clear duty of care to ensure that common property lifts are safe. Should an incident occur, owners may face significant financial penalties and liability. Therefore, it’s critical that your building has a process in place to regularly check the operation of your lift emergency phones. Any issues should be immediately reported to your lift service provider for rectification.
This article has been contributed by Grant Caldwell, Equity Elevator Consultants.