Whether you manage a gated community or own an apartment building, the entry system you install affects how visitors, delivery carriers, and even residents access your property. If you’re seeking a wireless access control system for your gate or door, you might be considering a cellular telephone entry system.
Although telephone entry systems have historically required landlines, some systems now operate over cellular connections. Read this post for a quick guide to cellular telephone entry systems, and find out if a cell phone entry system is the right solution to meet your property access needs.
This post covers:
- What is a cellular telephone entry system?
- How a cellular telephone entry system works
- Cell phone entry system limitations
- Alternatives to cellular telephone entry systems
What is a cellular telephone entry system?
A cellular telephone entry system is a type of multi-tenant intercom that allows residents to use their cell phones to communicate with visitors and grant property access to guests.
The cellular telephone entry system improves upon traditional telephone entry systems by using cellular networks instead of physical landlines. In fact, many cellular telephone entry systems are simply modified landline entry systems.
Landline and cellular telephone entry systems function in the same way. At their core, they are both designed to enable a tenant to grant property access to their visitor. The difference between the two systems is in their connection: one is based upon cellular signals, and the other occurs by way of a landline.
Let’s go over a bit of intercom terminology to help us fully understand the differences between cellular telephone entry systems and landline entry systems.
All phone entry systems have two parts:
- A base station, the hardware installed at an entry door or gate that visitors use to contact residents.
- A substation installed in residents’ apartments. Substations let residents speak with guests and grant property access. A substation can be a piece of hardware with a microphone and speaker, a landline phone, or — most recently — a cell phone.
What is the difference between a cellular telephone entry system and a landline entry system?
In traditional landline telephone entry systems, the system is connected via a wired landline. In contrast, cellular entry systems connect via a cellular connection, much like what your cell phone uses to make phone calls.
Landline entry systems require you to purchase and run a phone line to the base station installed at the entryway of your building. Now, cell phone entry systems have eliminated the need for telephone wiring. This lack of wiring also makes setting up an outdoor gate access system easier, as you’ll no longer need to run wiring from your building to your gate.
How landline systems became cellular systems
Cellular telephone entry systems were developed during the shift from landline phones to cell phones.
Before they used cellular networks, telephone entry systems used copper wires to connect an entryway’s door station to each resident’s apartment. Installing one of these entry systems meant modifying existing phone lines or purchasing and laying new wiring.
Even today, running wire throughout a building means tearing out walls and rebuilding them again, and those costs add up. What’s more, residents could only answer calls from guests when they were in their homes. As a result, landline phone entry systems caused residents to miss visitors and deliveries.
When cell phone popularity exploded in the 2000s, the landline system quickly became outdated. Intercom providers turned to cellular technology as a better, more efficient alternative to wired landlines. In contrast to landline systems, cell phone-based systems use cellular networks, eliminating the need for wiring.
How does a cellular telephone entry system work?
Cellular telephone entry systems work by using cellular networks to establish contact between guests and visitors.
These calls allow residents to speak to whoever is at the base station and grant guests access. Since the system is cell phone-based, residents don’t even have to be home to let their guests onto the property.
Here’s how a cellular telephone entry system works:
- A guest seeking property access finds the resident they’re visiting in the entry system’s base station.
- The telephone entry system places a call over a cellular network to the resident’s phone.
- When the resident picks up, they can speak with the guest like any other phone call. Their guest can hear and speak with them, too, since the system’s base station has a microphone and speaker.
- Finally, the resident can let the guest in by pressing ‘9’ on their cell phone.
Limitations of cellular telephone entry systems
Cellular telephone entry systems are more convenient than landline systems. But cellular systems fail to offer all the features that today’s residents expect from a modern building entry system.
Here are some limitations of cellular telephone entry systems:
- Expensive. Using a cellular network for calls may require you to invest in a commercial-grade cellphone plan with an ongoing, high-bandwidth connection.
- Inconvenient for you. Who’s going to be stuck with scheduling and managing a technician whenever a resident moves in or out? Those aren’t tasks you need to add to your busy schedule. Best to look for a system that automatically updates rent rolls, taking things off your plate instead of piling on.
- Lacking video. Cellular telephone entry systems don’t offer video functionality. That means residents can’t video chat with visitors and visually confirm who’s requesting property access.
- Few property access methods. When a visitor arrives at a building with a cell phone entry system, their only option is to call the resident. There are no virtual keys for guests or delivery PINs for couriers.
- No cloud-based management. Cloud-based entry systems let property staff manage access and update the tenant directory from anywhere, on any device, with a web-based dashboard. In contrast, cellular entry systems require you to download software onto one specific device to remotely manage the system.
Alternatives to cellular telephone entry systems
As the smartphone gets smarter, cellular telephone entry systems are becoming obsolete. They’re harder to install and offer fewer features than the latest property access solutions. But there’s good news: You have better options.
Three possible alternatives to cell phone entry systems include:
Telephone entry systems with cameras
To accommodate innovations in technology, some manufacturers have opted to offer the telephone entry system with a camera. These systems may have a built-in camera or may require you to purchase and install a camera separately.
However, telephone-based intercoms don’t have the bandwidth to handle two-way video transfers. As a result, residents can see video of their visitors, but visitors can’t see residents.
WiFi telephone entry systems
In recent years, some companies have attempted to modernize the telephone entry system by using WiFi instead of cellular networks. WiFi telephone entry systems send data between residents’ cell phones and system hardware via WiFi instead of a telephone network.
WiFi telephone entry systems are a decent attempt at adapting cellular systems to the modern age. However, they fall short in crucial ways. WiFi networks and cellular networks are different. Because of that, consistent and rapid communication between them is difficult.
Cell phones, especially smartphones, can easily interpret data from WiFi networks. But cellular telephone entry systems can’t. Since cellular telephone systems can only handle certain kinds of data, it’s difficult to add WiFi capabilities to a telephone entry system.
Video intercom systems
Video intercoms are the best alternative to a cellular telephone entry system.
Like cellular entry systems, smart video intercoms use phones as intercom substations that allow for communication and guest entry. But unlike cellular entry systems, video intercoms are capable of more than just phone calls. The best video intercoms for apartments are fully smartphone-compatible and leverage the full power of the smartphone for a seamless property access experience.
Video intercoms let residents use their smartphones to video chat with visitors and open doors and gates remotely. They also offer other property access methods, which means visitors have more than one way to request access. In fact, the best systems may offer virtual keys for planned visits, and delivery PINs and passes for courier access.
Pro tip: When shopping for a video intercom, choose a cloud-based system that lets you manage access and update your tenant directory remotely.
Video intercoms vs. cellular telephone entry systems
Today’s video intercoms give both property managers and residents the power to manage access simply. Smartphone gate entry systems and other video intercoms take advantage of the latest technology to make administration easier for property owners and managers while simplifying property access for residents and guests.
Tenants will surely appreciate a residential gate access control system that doesn’t make them walk all the way outside to see who’s visiting. For property staff, video intercoms offer features like web-based dashboards that display an audit trail of door releases and enable remote management.
Here’s a comparison between smart video intercoms and cellular telephone entry systems:
|Feature||Smart video intercom||Cellular telephone entry system|
|Remote door opening||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual keys for guest access||Yes||No|
|Integrations with other smart building systems||Yes||No|
Cell phone entry systems may be a step up from the traditional telephone entry system, but they fail to offer the robust features and functionality of video intercoms. If you’re looking for a better multi-tenant entry system, choose a video intercom like ButterflyMX instead. Installed in more than 6,500 buildings, ButterflyMX is the industry’s leading property access solution.