DECT – Still (favourite) after all these years

Since its standardisation, in the years 1990 to 1993, DECT has developed into the most successful and favourite technologies for wireless on premise communications. Over the years many innovations have been introduced, and NEC has been at the forefront.

One of the main changes came in 2002, when traditional DECT transitioned into IP DECT, taking away the need for a dedicated network, as IP DECT just used the normal data network. In recent times DECT has been enhanced with various applications, such as alarming and notification, localisation services, the most recent being a beacon technology via Bluetooth low energy, and tour guide, replacing unstable analogue technology used in tourist excursions.

By 2005, Wi-Fi-based solutions emerged, and later Fixed/Mobile Conversion appeared, two alternative technologies that basically could also do the ‘mobile communications’ job. Although reality proven to be  somewhat different.  

Dedicated DECT spectrum
DECT uses its own dedicated spectrum which means no disturbance, while Wi-Fi on the other hand continually suffers from interference. A microwave oven, for example, sends its signals in the same Wi-Fi spectrum. When a second Wi-Fi solution is introduced in the vicinity, the first Wi-Fi should be re-tuned to work adjacent to the second Wi-Fi system, in order to avoid trouble with voice quality and broken calls.

Where mobile integration – fixed/mobile convergence – is concerned, coverage in buildings for mobile phones is getting worse and worse, particularly due to environmental regulations. The natural shielding inside buildings to manage temperature, for example, is much greater than it was a few years ago, which makes it much more difficult for the radio signals from outside to penetrate inside a building

There Is No Real Alternative
So the alternatives to DECT have not reached the same level of usability and maturity. This is why NEC has continued working with DECT – and successfully so!

From the very beginning DECT has provided perfect voice quality and seamless hand-over. This has made it very easy to implement DECT in many organisations with large numbers of mobile staff, including hospitals,  hotels and cruise ships with a very high degree of service levels. In addition to this, DECT integrates very well with the communication servers and over the years, a lot of applications have been added to DECT, such as messaging, alarming, localisation and lone worker solutions, which are made for perfect integration into many vertical industries.

These factors – dedicated spectrum, perfect voice quality, over-the-air and DECT-to-PBX security levels and ‘never-fails-you-reliability’ - are the key reasons why DECT was important from the start, and why that continues today. Coupled with a radio spectrum that is not regulated by operators, DECT offers significant benefits for industries where reliable service for mission critical processes is a pre-requisite.

DECT application areas
Besides regular office environments DECT is used particularly in healthcare (hospitals/nurse-call), hospitality, warehouses, manufacturing and prisons.

A striking example of a particular sector where DECT is favoured is the cruise industry. From yachts and  small riverboats to the largest cruise ships. A cruise ship can be considered being a big, steel factory or warehouse – as well as hotel. Everything is shielded. There are lots of small rooms and all are shielded for radio signals. Then consider that you have a very high number of phones/radios, and that everyone - guests as well as staff - expects to be able to continue to talk as they are walking around. An extremely difficult environment to deploy wireless communications but DECT works excellent here, while the alternatives – mobile integration or Wi-Fi – are just so much more difficult to make it work.

DECT too enables much control at middleware level, from allowing or denying external calling at individual handset level, receiving external calls, push to talk, broadcast messaging, handset to handset messaging, alerts, alarms, silent calling (so that you can listen in when a member of staff may be in trouble), Bluetooth connectivity, loudspeaker function, group calling. DECT has it all.

DECT still very relevant today
When you are in a specific industry sector and you need a phone for a specific purpose like a lone-worker solution or nurse-call system, it is just the simplest for staff to use a dedicated handset.

There are developments now based around 4G/LTE which offer great voice and data. The difference here is that you mostly need to use an operator network. Your organisation is then bound to use that particular operator. If you do so, you can ask those operators to implement small cells inside your building, which would extend the mobile network into your building in order to get around the shielding issues. These local cells will however then still be owned by the operator. Private LTE will change things, but until today it is only available in a couple of countries. Everywhere else, the entire available spectrum is owned by the operators.

Paving the way to 5G
Looking toward to the future, it is likely that private 5G will become a viable option. Everything however depends on which frequencies will be selected as well as the support of smartphones for these frequencies. This will determine the costs of deploying such a mobile solution and thus its competitiveness.

DECT-5G is the name given to the specification underlying the next generation of DECT and ULE. This will be aligned with the technical requirements of IMT-2020. By its nature, DECT-5G will be of strategic importance for the indoor environment compared to other technologies since around 80% of data traffic is generated via indoor systems. All in all it is clear that DECT is here to stay for a long time in the future, and the best option to pave the way to 5G and beyond.

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