Beware of Analogue Telephone Adaptors (ATA)

As telecoms networks move from copper lines (analogue) to fibre lines (digital), lift emergency phones will be directly impacted. Adding an ATA may be the initial option – but there are serious considerations to be aware of.

Could the digital switch make lift emergency phones inoperative?

Telecoms networks worldwide are being upgraded with all-new fibre lines (digital) replacing copper lines (analogue). The implementation of this new, more efficient network will mean faster data services for home and business users but will render landlines unsuitable for emergency communication devices.

This will have a huge impact on key safety devices that will no longer be supported, such as lift emergency phones. Unless properly monitored, these emergency phones will become inoperative without raising any alerts. Hundreds of thousands of lifts could be impacted by this change!

What is an ATA?

To support an existing setup to continue working on a digital phone line, an ATA can be added to the setup. An ATA communicates in dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) to activate the emergency call. This setup not only requires the ATA itself but also battery backups for the ATA and the autodialler itself (as the fibre line no longer provides the voltage required to function) as well as a connection to the DC mains power for its regular operation.

As this setup falls outside of the EN81-28 lift standard, the responsibility falls on the lift owner to source the additional equipment, ensure that they are compatible with the phone’s IP as well as monitor that the battery backup remains functional. Let’s review each of these issues in detail.

Protocol Compatibility

The biggest problem with ATAs is finding units that are compatible with the specific IP protocol of the telephone system with which it should connect. At MEMCO, we recommend speaking directly to the phone line provider to source compatible equipment because it’s about compatibility with the phone line, not the lift emergency phone It’s also important to consider that as this is a legacy technology, it is often expensive and difficult to find suppliers and spares.

DTMF Settings

There’s no ‘lift autodialler’ setting on an ATA so buildings tend to struggle to configure them correctly. It’s very much like the settings for a fax machine, as these also require good quality high-speed dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) signalling . However, it’s worth noting that in some cases, ATA’s don’t support the specific tones (A, B, C, and D tones) required for M2M signalling used for the 3-day background calls. This normally happens because some ATAs are designed to support touch-tone phones (e.g.: “press 1 for Sales, press 2 for Accounts”, etc.) so they can only recognise the 0-9, *, and # tones from a regular phone keypad.

Power Backup

Any ATA will require a power backup (most likely a battery) to continue functioning in the event of a mains power failure. One of the issues with moving to digital lines is that they will most likely fail if the power goes out. It is very important to remember that every element in the call chain must be backed up, otherwise, the call will most likely still fail.

Monitoring an upgraded solution

An additional area of concern when provisioning an ATA is the maintenance of the battery-backed supplies. Usually, there is no way to monitor the battery status so there will be no alerts if the batteries fail or if the power has been cut and the devices have switched to battery backup and are quietly draining their batteries.

What does this mean to the lift industry?

This presents a new challenge to the lift industry as, unless the phones are closely monitored, these safety devices will cease to function and put their users at high risk.

To ensure autodiallers continue to operate after the switch, lift owners have to consider the options available. Should the upgrade to a fully digital solution or update their current analogue setup? What other technology changes could take place in the near future and how can they futureproof the lifts?

Don’t gamble with passenger safety

Many building owners, having already invested in an emergency phone, may prefer to simply update this analogue system as the device itself is still functional. This option, in theory, may sound like a good option. However, as mentioned before, there are a few things to consider which may affect not only the effectiveness of the upgrade but the final cost as well.

A better option is to upgrade the equipment to a digital setup because it has embedded in its own hardware the required battery backup as a safety measure to ensure the connection continues to operate even if there’s a blackout. The setup within the lift shaft also supports that, no matter at what level the phone is activated, connectivity will be ensured as a digital solution benefits from Machine 2 Machine (M2M) roaming SIM cards that can leverage any phone signal to activate the call. This solution is easy to install, and the autodialler remains monitored and functioning throughout its life.

Find out more about our services and solutions to ensure your lifts remain safe after the digital switch.