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DECT Technology Coming to the U.S.

by tgposzadmin on October 4th, 2006

DECT, or Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications, is coming to the U.S. in a move largely framed by the FCC and the DECT forum, an industry association that has been lobbying the FCC for some changes to previous rules.

What in the world is DECT? Well, first of all, the “E” used to stand for European, as this was largely a cellular telecommunications system that is built with small cell sizes, roughly about 600 feet in diameter, originally coming from Europe. It has enjoyed some success there, where it has been standardized, by ETSI, the European standards body involved in Telco. Their work on DECT started in the late 1980’s culminating in the first ETSI standard in 1992.

Earlier in the 1980’s, work was being done to develop the technology, which largely centered on work in the UK and inSweden. Perhaps the first driver was to digitally “enhance” the analog cordless phone offerings that were starting to show up, at that time, from Asian manufacturers. Digital, of course, was better than Analog – less “crackle” and interference, higher density of phones in a given space, security, moving between “cells”, just like the regular mobile phone network, but with unlicensed users rather than the more formal and really high-tech cellular base station that belongs to the mobile phone company and serves hundreds of users over much larger cell sizes.

These were all reasons for DECT, not necessarily for the individual at home, but more for the business user, perhaps with a large space to cover, like a warehouse, and/or lots of people needing service, such as an office type of setup. Mobility is the name of the game, rather than a fixed phone at your desk. This is not to say that business is the only user of this technology, almost since the beginning, manufacturers have been offering business anddomestic types of offerings, with Siemen’s Gigaset being an example of among the first, and continuing on through today with newer and newer models. Today, you can purchase a Gigaset that is coupled with Yahoo! Messenger w/Voice capabilities, the VoIP offer from Yahoo.

The standards have covered and defined the radio part of this link between handset and basestation as well as the handover that occurs between the basestation and an office switchboard (PABX) or public telco switch (or your local terminal adapter in the VoIP case).

Largely, what has changed to allow this technology to move to our shores has been a decision by the FCC late last year to set aside some radio spectrum in the 1920-1930 MHz frequencies for unlicensed users. Originally, this spectrum was to be sold off in the PCS auctions and there was an FCC requirement for new users to pay a sizeable fee to help relocate existing users of the radio spectrum. Some changes to the channelization requirements and a significantly lower fee have helped to make the U.S. market more attractive. In Europe, DECT operates in a different frequency band, 1880-1900 MHz.

Why is this better than what we have today for digital cordless phones? Better range is often cited as one advantage over existing 2.4 Ghz or 5.8 GHz phones. Other things to note are simultaneous calls on a number of handsets, quality of service, security, no-toll internal calls (think PBX extension to extension types of calls), ability to handoff call from one cell to the next (which means a very large area, like an entire warehouse, can be covered with lots of base stations), push-to-talk, and of course, Voice over IP (VoIP) integration.

Interference is less at 1920 MHz because a company may have their Wireless LAN setup and running at 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz. Other interference usually comes from baby monitors and microwave ovens. A lot of firms marketing in this area are focused on small to medium businesses, largely due to the expectation that a really large enterprise will have voice and data integrated together in their Wireless LAN infrastructure and not need DECT, because they would be probably expected to have Voice over WiFi types of phones, sometimes noted with the “VoWLAN” acronym. A small company may not have the resources, nor the money, to fully integrate voice and data on their own Wireless LAN infrastructure.

Who is bring this to the US? SpectraLink is one such company, having recently acquired Kirk Telecom of Denmark. Uniden DECT1060 tinycopyKirk is one of the leading suppliers of DECT equipment in the EU. SpectraLink’s main focus will be on small to medium sized enterprise business products. There will be some consumer products. Uniden is introducing its first set of cordless phone products based on DECT, announced just this week. Uniden had earlier announced an equity purchase and partnership with SunCorp Technologies of Hong Kong, another manufacturer of DECT products.

So, perhaps some advantages for a small to medium business looking to push into wireless handset technologies for it’s employees, i.e., where mobility of the employee and communications needs both need to be met for employee productivity, but where they may not want to make the larger fiscal and more complex jump into VoWLAN. And this from a piece of technology that has had a decade to mature.

From → Telephony

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