residential gate call box


Key takeaways

  • A gate call box is a way that guests at a gate can communicate with a resident in their apartment. This way, the guest can enter the property without making the resident go all the way downstairs to let them in.
  • Residents use pieces of hardware called substations to talk to a call box for gates.
  • While gate call boxes offer some convenience, their drawbacks include a lack of software integrations and no package delivery solutions.
  • The best gate call box alternative is ButterflyMX.


If you’re looking for an access control solution for your gated property, you might be considering installing a residential call box. You have to balance the demands of tenants who want a convenient way to grant access to visitors and deliveries with the need to maintain security at your property. So, are gate call boxes the best way to control gate access?

In this post, we explain what a gate call box is and how it works. Then, we go over some of their drawbacks and offer alternatives.

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What is a gate call box?

A gate call box is a hardware device installed at a gated entrance that guests use to speak with the tenant they’re visiting and request property access. They’re also known as gate intercoms.

You’ll find gate call boxes at gated properties of all kinds, from residential gated communities to high-security office complexes. And when a call box is installed at a door instead of a gate, it’s called a door call box.

Regardless of the type of building or the entry method, all call boxes have one thing in common: They all need to securely accommodate different types of visitors while providing convenient access for the property’s residents and staff.

Gate call boxes are a type of gate security entry management system that includes:

  • Substations. A substation is a piece of hardware that allows a tenant to speak to a visitor at the gated entrance from inside a building. Depending on the type of gate call box you have, ‘substation’ can mean different things. Sometimes, call boxes for gates direct all calls to one singular substation monitored by a front desk, security office, or receptionist. Other times, they direct calls to individual substations that are installed in every tenant’s apartment or office.
  • Gate opener. When a tenant wants to let their visitor in, they press a button on their substation. In turn, the motorized gate call box relays a signal to a sliding or swinging gate opener. In some cases, the gate can open automatically.


Watch how ButterflyMX works:


Alternatives to call boxes

For a robust, feature-rich alternative to gate call boxes, consider a video intercom with a mobile app like ButterflyMX.

Video intercoms with mobile apps have features call boxes don’t have, such as:

  • Smartphone functionality. If tenants can use their smartphones as substations, you save money by not having to install physical substations throughout your property.
  • Remote gate access. With their smartphones, tenants will be able to open their gate anywhere they have an internet connection — even if they’re halfway around the world.
  • More gate unlock options. The best mobile app intercoms prepare tenants for every kind of access scenario with features like customizable virtual keys and one-time delivery passes.


How does a call box for gates work?

Gate call boxes work by allowing tenants to communicate with their visitors via the master station and its substations. When the tenant has confirmed that the visitor can access the property they press an ‘open’ button, which tells the electronic security gate to open.

A resident can also use a gate or call box code to enter the gate themselves.

Since many gates are not near an internet or telephone connection, it’s common to see wireless call boxes for gates. These call boxes are usually connected to their substations via a cellular network — eliminating the need to install additional wiring.

Here’s how a visitor uses a security gate access control system:

  1. Visitor finds and calls a tenant. Call boxes have directories that a visitor can use to select their intended tenant.
  2. Gate call box signals substation. Whether the call box is part of a telephone entry system or it’s using a radio or a WiFi signal, the call box establishes a line of communication with the correct substation.
  3. Tenant uses substation to speak to visitor. Tenants talk to their visitors like they would through a traditional phone call. Though most call boxes don’t offer video calling, gate call boxes with cameras do.
  4. Tenant grants entry to visitor. If a security gate call box is hooked up to a tenant’s cell phone, the tenant presses ‘9’ to unlock the gate. Otherwise, the substation has a button the tenant can press.
  5. Substation sends signal to gate opener. When the gate opens, the visitor can enter the property.


outdoor call box commercial


Types of call boxes

Depending on the needs of your property and your current budget, you can choose between a few different types of gate call boxes.

Types of gate call box gate access systems include:

  1. Wireless call box
  2. Call box with camera
  3. Phone-based call box


1. Wireless call boxes

In the past, many gate call boxes depended on copper wiring to ensure communication between a gate opener and a substation. But wireless technology ensures that you don’t have to dig up concrete and tear walls up to lay wire.

You might use radio signals, a cellular network, or WiFi to power a wireless call box.

While wireless call boxes are convenient, you should also take precautions against things that can disrupt a wireless signal, like WiFi outages or weather events.


2. Call box with camera

Some call boxes come with cameras that residents can use to see guests before they grant entry.

Gate intercoms with cameras increase security by allowing a resident to verify the identity of their guest. However, they require the installation of more complicated substation hardware that comes with its own monitor.


3. Phone-based call box

Instead of installing a separate substation, many property managers have found it more convenient to connect residents’ phones to the gate opener.

In the past, residents used their landlines to connect to the call box. But these days, you can set up a resident’s cell phone to work with a call box — when a guest uses the call box, a resident can just press ‘9’ to open the gate.


Call box for gates limitations

Now that you’re familiar with how they works, let’s review some of the ways a call box fails to meet your property’s needs.

Here are a few drawbacks to gate call boxes:

  • No software integrations. Call boxes can’t integrate with other smart building platforms. In contrast, more advanced IP gate intercoms can integrate with your property management software to automatically sync your rent roll between both platforms.
  • No integrations with other access control systems. A call box can’t integrate with other door entry systems, such as keypads and fob systems, for access beyond the gated entrance. So, if you want controlled access throughout your entire building, you’re better off with a front gate intercom that integrates with your other systems.
  • Limited visitor access options. Most call boxes require a tenant to be in their unit to unlock the door for a visitor. And even cellular gate telephone entry systems don’t offer any solution for visitors to enter the property without requesting access first. In contrast, modern IP gate intercoms offer virtual keys, which residents can send to visitors for managed access.
  • No package delivery solutions. Online deliveries are growing more popular by the day. They lack features like delivery passes or PINs that ensure seamless access for carriers.


The ButterflyMX gate intercom

ButterflyMX’s suite of intercoms and keypads simplifies access throughout your property by forming one complete ecosystem. Staff, tenants, and visitors alike can navigate from the front gate throughout the property with ease.

A gate call box only lets tenants manage access to your property’s gate. However, your gated community or HOA has many more access points that a gate call box cannot integrate with or control. By choosing a call box, you’re forced to install entirely separate entry systems to manage entry into your building and amenity spaces.

In contrast, ButterflyMX is a mobile gate entry system that residents control with their smartphones. Instead of just transmitting audio, like a call box does, ButterflyMX offers video calling and a mobile app. And from the app, residents can even assign virtual keys, create delivery passes, and swipe to open the gate.

Property management is also much simpler for staff in a ButterflyMX building. Management can control access from a web-based dashboard and integrate their gate intercom with other proptech.


replace your call box with a video intercom system

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Ferdison Cayetano

I’m a proptech enthusiast from New Jersey who’s looking forward to the innovations that will revolutionize real estate.

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