att digital life

AT&T is one of the communications giants who joined the telcom gold rush into the home security market in 2010. Like other cable and communications companies, AT&T built their security business around the framework of their existing cable/internet/telephone infrastructure, and uses their extensive support department to provide customer service. AT&T is an experienced and innovative home electronics company, and they’re building a strong presence in the home security industry.

Price: $39.99 (basic service)

Installation: $99

Security Equipment

Rather than use equipment made by established manufacturers, AT&T has chosen to make their own – for better or worse. Their system is designed to work with most existing equipment, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Customers do appreciate the completely wireless network, but the backup batteries for the equipment only have about a 10-hour life. Most clients seem to like the interface and menus on their components. Equipment for the basic package includes:

  • ​Window sensors
  • Door sensors
  • Wireless keypad
  • Motion sensor
  • Indoor siren

Company History

The parent company of AT&T Security is, of course, AT&T Inc. – which was founded as American Telegraph and Telephone in 1885 by Alexander Graham Bell. AT&T was one of the biggest pieces to emerge from the disintegration of Bell Telephone in 1982, and remains the largest telecommunications company in the world. They’re one of the few telcom companies to have a nationwide presence.

In 2010, several of the larger telecommunications and broadband companies began to move into the home security market, and AT&T made their move in 2012. By 2013, they were established in 3 test markets, and currently serve 23 states. Their goal is to expand to all 50 states, but their rollout is slower than expected.

The Good

  • Free home consultation
  • Free installation
  • Remote access through smartphone app
  • Five diamond certification

We’ll get to the expensive portions of the service in a bit, but give AT&T high marks for low costs on the front end. They make it easy to get onboard, offering free home consultation and free installation. AT&T developed an innovative smartphone app for remote access, and most of their customers find it functional and easy to use.

Another thing new clients find useful is the ability to plug the system into any existing security infrastructure they may have in their home. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work as well as it’s meant to, but most customers find it not only convenient but a big money saver. AT&T equipment is designed to synchronize with equipment made by most security manufacturers. And, AT&T is certified as a Five Diamond security provider by the Central Security Alarm Association, the industry’s international trade association.

The Bad

  • Lengthy contracts
  • Cash upfront at start of contract
  • Very high cancellation fees
  • Inconsistent customer service
  • Basic price much higher than industry average
  • Complicated pricing structure
  • No home automation at basic level

Like other telcom companies who are relatively new to the security industry, AT&T has some kinks to work out, especially in the customer service department. Many customers who counted on their system being compatible with existing hardware and wiring learn that it doesn’t work for them, and they often have trouble getting the problem resolved through AT&T customer service. Whether you get great, mediocre, or poor customer service seems to depend on who happens to answer the phone.

Billing problems are common, too, with many customers getting charged for service packages they didn’t order, and once they’re trapped in those packages, it’s hard to get out. The security service is rolled into a bundle with their other home services, and can not be removed without unwrapping the entire bundle – which means the client has to start all over with picking a new cable package, and may lose the pricing they had been locked into.

Clients who want to add features to the basic system must choose increasingly expensive tiered service packages, rather than ordering a la carte, which can quickly add 50% or more to the basic fee. And that adds up with a system that doesn’t offer home automation until you climb up to the more expensive service packages. Prices for the basic service are already much higher than the industry average.

Customers who change their minds pay a very hefty cancellation fee to get out of their contract – which is a 2-year deal, longer than most. Unlike most companies, AT&T makes you pay at the door to get onboard, rather than bill you later. They don’t charge an installation fee, but you do need to pay some of the service fee in advance. It’s usually not much (depending on your FICO score), but be ready for it.

The Bottom Line

Like most telcom companies who expand into the security industry, AT&T brings an impressive list of technical expertise, a state of the art data transmission network, and an extensive IT and customer service infrastructure to the game. But also like some communications companies, they’ve got some work to do to elevate their customer service and billing departments above the level of other cable companies and on a par with other security companies.

Give AT&T credit – they’re not afraid to try innovative new ideas, and some of those ideas make AT&T Digital Life easy to use and quite popular with their clients. Trouble is, a few of those ideas don’t work according to plan yet, and AT&T Digital Life packages are significantly more expensive than comparable products from their competitors. They’re a solid choice for most clients, but some may find they get more bang for the same buck with other companies.

AT&T Digital Life Contact Information