Bell cancels Home Monitoring business

Neil Sutton
Monday December 03, 2007
Written by Neil Sutton
Bell Canada has cancelled its Home Monitoring portfolio less than a year after launching the service.
Bell spokesman Jeff Meerman says the service has been cancelled because “Bell has decided to focus on its core portfolio” of home phone, Internet, cell phone and satellite television. He said the decision was made independent of the sale of Bell’s parent company, BCE, to a private consortium led by the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund for approximately $52 billion.

Home Monitoring customers were notified of the cancellation in a letter sent out in November. The website that promoted the service has been replaced with a cancellation notice and Bell has posted an FAQ to customers who may have questions about its discontinuation.

The service, which launched in March 2007, allowed customers to use mobile phone and Internet services from Bell to check on the status of their home remotely. Using motion trackers, users could be notified of relatives whereabouts – for example, when a child comes home from school – or monitor a third party, like a service repair person or dog walker. Alerts were also available via e-mail or mobile phone message.

Users paid a monthly subscription fee of $19.99 plus a one-time equipment charge of $299.99 for a base unit, two door/window sensors, a motion detector and a remote keypad.

According to Meerman, there were about 1,500 customers signed up for the service. Meerman says that number met Bell’s expectations. “I’m not sure what the targets were, but certainly it was (in) high demand,” he says.

Frank Pietrobono, president of CANASA, says the industry was surprised by Bell’s decision to pull out of the market, “especially with the amount of advertising they were sending out.”

As recently as October, Bell announced that Home Monitoring packages were available through FutureShop.

But the door is wide open for another utility or telecom operator to sell a similar service to consumers, says Pietrobono.

“The fact that it went away, it’s not going to stop others from attempting the same thing.”

The home /DIY security market is potentially very lucrative, he says, and it’s probably only a matter of time before another provider attempts to fill Bell’s shoes.

Traditional security installers may have to shift gears, he says, and consider how they can provide a new level of home service. Equipment is becoming easier for the home user to install, but  installers can still participate in the market by selling value-added and professional services into the home.

Customers who have invested in Bell’s home monitoring equipment will be given instructions as to how they safely recycle it, Meerman says. They will also be reimbursed for any equipment fees they incurred, and will receive a $100 credit for any inconvenience, according to the company FAQ.

Meerman says he’s not aware of any other home services cancelled by Bell.

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