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Wireless voice services have many options ranging from cellular-based solutions to home grown analog solutions. In a typical enterprise, a subset of the staff needs to be mobile. Un-tethering from the desk may allow a manager to keep a closer eye on a call center. An IT member may be able to communicate from the server room without having to run to a phone on the wall. No matter the reason, voice has to be reliable. Two reliable technologies have prevailed for multi-phone wireless environments. DECT and WiFi are common names and both are used in Enterprise and Consumer-grade products. Let’s take a look at what separates the two.

Digital Enhanced Communications Technology (DECT) has been used in Europe for many years and has recently gained new momentum in the North American market. DECT uses a CODEC system much like VoIP phones and handles Quality of Service type features to ensure an acceptable call quality. The difference is a modulation of the voice signal over 5 to 8 frequencies at 1.9GHz as of the DECT 6.0 standard. Previously versions of DECT worked at 900MHz. The system typically consists of a gateway, radio base stations, and phones. Some solutions may combine the gateway and base station when interfacing with IP based PBX. The base stations and the phones synchronize using unique ID numbers to keep the system secure. It may also use multiple channels, frequency hopping, and encryption techniques to enhance security.

Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi phones operate on 802.11a\b\g\n\ac networks much like a laptop or other wireless internet device would operate. Like DECT systems, Wi-Fi operates over multiple channels but at higher frequencies of either 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The 4.9GHz frequencies exist but are only used for authorized Public Safety networks. Since the network is IP based, the phone works like a common VoIP phone would in most cases. Some solutions may use an additional gateway for employing QoS or buffering as this helps with some anomalies that can occur on Wi-Fi. Most enterprises already have some type of wireless deployment. Some are based on consumer grade products which are not built to handle voice over Wi-Fi. Most enterprise grade deployments are more than capable. This can be a great advantage if deploying phones along with an existing 802.11 infrastructure.

So which technology is right for you? The advantages of DECT show up in the ability to meet a smaller scale deployment with some solutions being viable with only a single phone deployed. Another time to choose DECT would be to avoid interference with 802.11 networks in congested areas like large cities. On the other hand, Wi-Fi can allow better flexibility as the phones are not tied to the infrastructure vendor. Also, Wi-Fi typically scales larger and has higher capability of coverage due to the advanced infrastructure. Wireless site surveys can be a deciding factor since they can detect anomalies or congestion that may affect various frequencies (1.9GHz, 2.4GHz, 5GHz) and push you towards one wireless technology over another. Other factors like existing networks and lower TCO can help finalize your decision.

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