Fortress GSM Control Panel

Fortress GSM ConsoleThe Fortress Security GSM control panel is the company’s midrange offering of management consoles. The chief advantage to the GSM over the Fortress SO2 is the ability to let users connect with a cellular line rather than just a landline.

Keeping with the Fortress simplicity-of-use model, the Fortress GSM still has relatively few bells and whistles. Given it has cellular capability it has considerably more functionality and also programs differently than the SO2.

This proprietary product from Fortress works differently than the more “cookie cutter” panels offered by the larger U.S. manufacturers that supply most home security companies.

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The GSM panel uses either a GSM SIM card or some type of landline service (including VoIP). Like the SO2, you can program the system to dial up to six numbers in the event of an alarm activation. You must supply your own SIM card, however. Smaller, micro SIM card may also require you to purchase an adaptor for the panel.

If you use the GSM SIM instead of a landline, three of the numbers programmed can receive text message alerts also.

This unit handles up to 100 sensors split among up to ten alarm zones.

The panel is larger than the SO2. It is 7.9 inches long, slightly over 5 inches wide and over an inch thick.

The AC power is backed up by a battery that lasts from 3-8 hours. The SO2 has a 72-hour battery but due to the power requirements of cellular, the GSM battery has a much shorter life.

There are two default passcode settings. The program password is 888888, and the operational passcode is 1234.

Exterior LED Display

The LED screen displays nine different status markers:

  • Cell Phone Signal Strength
  • Landline Connection (if used)
  • Armed or Unarmed
  • Sending Display (when phone or text notification is activated)
  • SIM Card Status (present/not present)
  • Power Source (AC or battery)
  • System Status (home armed, system armed or disarmed)
  • Triggered or Uncleared Alarms
  • Date and Time

If the GSM card is functioning, the power button will blink every second. It will blink every 2-3 seconds if the GSM is not connected or a landline or VoIP is being used.


The pushbutton keypad below the LED screen has a plastic cover. The face resembles a standard telephone numbering dial but has six icon buttons also.

The action icons have symbols for home away arm, home arm, up, down, right, and left.

There are three action or programming keys. The SOS button acts as a panic alarm. Pressing it will immediately activate the alarm. The ESC key is the back key used during programming. The Enter key completes and action or saves it to the system.

The number keys input the numbers assigned to the sensors or zones. It also dials the phone if you are using cellular.

Back Panel

The GSM has a back panel where the physical connections are made. There are six:

  • Battery on/off Switch
  • Power Connection
  • Wired or Plugin Siren Socket
  • Telephone Line In (two)
  • BUS Bar (for wired sensors: requires some knowledge of sensor wiring)

SIM Card Panel

The SIM card panel is on the back of the console inside a small plastic tab the swings out. You need to purchase a SIM card separately. Ensure that the cut out portion of the card is on the lower right and the contacts face down. Pull the plastic tab out, insert the GSM card, and carefully push the tab back in.

Powering Up

When you first connect the power, you should hear a long beep and see “Fortress Ver: 005” displayed on the screen for approximately two seconds.

Then you will see a GSM or SIM card icon blink on the screen every two seconds. The signal strength indicate should display and 10-20 seconds after the SIM is inserted, you will hear a short beep, the GSM symbol will disappear, and you should be connected to your network.

If this does not happen, you will need to follow the troubleshooting steps for SIM card problems outlined in the manual provided with the system or consult the online video or chat service at the Fortress Security Store website.



Testing Sensors and Detectors

As with all Fortress products, the sensors and detectors come preprogrammed with whatever package you buy. You should test each one before you install them. After installation, test them periodically, once a year at a minimum.

For door and window sensors, separate the magnet from the sensor portion until you see a red light flash. For motion sensors, merely switching it on and off and ensure the red light flashes will suffice. Press any button on the key fob and if the light flashes it is functional.

Glass break sensors, which require AC power unlike the door/window and other sensors, should be plugged in, then tapped with your finger.

Testing the GSM Control Panel

While standing in front of the control panel, use a keyfob and press the “out” mode or lock icon. The panel should start a countdown by beeping for thirty seconds (the default delay). Next, you will hear a final beep and, depending on the model, a voice that will say, “system armed.” The “arm” light should be displayed on the LED screen.

To ensure that the panel can connect properly to a door/window sensor or motion detector, trigger one while the system is armed. Assuming you programmed the text function, if you receive a text and call, then it is working properly.

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We're huge fans of Fortress' lack of monthly fees, affordable price, and 30-day return policy. 

Telephone Arming and Disarming

The GSM panel lets you access and arm or disarm the system by using your cell phone or from a landline. After a programmed number of rings, the panel will answer and state “Please enter password.” Enter your operating code. The panel voice will repeat all numbers except for the last one. If the voice does not respond within a second, reenter the passcode number.

If the passcode is successfully entered, the panel will state, “Please enter instruction.”

There are four instructions you can enter by pressing a number:

#1 – Arm System

#2 – Disarm System

#3 – Listen (you can listen to the sounds in the room where the GSM console is located by using the panel microphone)

#4 – Use the Panel Intercom (this function only works with cellular)

Changing Sensor Zones

Since the system comes preprogrammed, all the sensors are connected to a specific zone. You want to make sure your smoke detector and panic alarms are connected to a zone that is always armed no matter what the overall system state may be.

If you purchase additional sensors or detectors and add them to the wrong zone, you can change it but it takes several steps, including removing and then re-initiating all the sensors in the zone.

Assume that you have four sensors but one needs to move to another zone. To do this, you must:

  • Use the left and right arrow key to navigate to the correct “zone” screen
  • Press “enter”
  • Select delete and delete all four sensors
  • Use “add sensor” and reenter three of the sensors
  • Go to the appropriate zone and add the forth sensor to that zone

Final Thoughts

The Fortress GSM has a number of features that can be considered an upgrade from the SO2. The cellular capability adds an important texting feature to the notification process.

Overall, the system remains simplistic like the rest of the Fortress products yet very functional.

If you do not mind purchasing your own GSM card for the panel and are a Do It Yourself (DIY) type who is not interested in a lot of extras, the Fortress GSM is an excellent system for you to consider.

If you are looking for a DIY system that has cellular smartphone and management capabilities, then you may want to consider the Fortress Total Security or a competitor’s product.  To learn more about Fortress, check out our full Fortress security system review.

Related: The Best Security Systems of 2019

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.

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