Chris Pulsford, National Partner Enablement Manager, Wavelink
Many workers, particularly in industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing, where they are constantly on the move, rely on mobile communication devices to effectively perform their jobs. As technology evolves, and devices become capable of many other functions, mobile workers are able to work more efficiently than ever before.
The two key onsite enterprise mobile voice solutions currently in use are Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) and Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi). The growing adoption of WLAN in businesses is driving an increase in VoWiFi.
Both of these technologies let users access enterprise telephony features like making and receiving high-quality phone calls via the enterprise Unified Communications (UC) platform in their workplace. They also support powerful application integration to facilitate non-verbal communications, access detailed information from servers and databases, task management, and a raft of other capabilities.
DECT is a ‘closed’ radio network, dedicated to just DECT handsets, and can offer great value for money. However, VoWiFi can leverage existing enterprise Wi-Fi that can also be used for many other purposes. While DECT supports messaging and third-party application integration, VoWiFi devices generally offer far superior capability in this area.
With each solution offering different capabilities it is critical to assess which communications solution will offer the organisation the most value.
Six key factors to determine whether DECT or VoWiFi will be ‘the right fit’ for your organisation:
- Organisation specifics. Review the operational methodology for device usage. For example, are devices used for basic voice and messaging or do they require complex functionality including third-party platform integration such as Nurse Call, Building Management Systems, Alarm Panels etc. Also, consider the current technology requirement, and the technology roadmap. Technology changes quickly so it’s important to deliver a solution that is future-proof.
- Operating environment. Does your organisation already have Wi-Fi infrastructure that is suitable for carrying voice? Has it been deployed to carry voice? Wi-Fi that has been deployed for data applications will almost always require some re-engineering for supporting voice, which can add to the cost of implementation. Also, consider the current network and cabling infrastructure and what changes/additions will be needed to support the addition of DECT and VoWiFi. For VoWiFi, a spectrum analysis may be advisable in certain types of environment to identify potential sources of interference, and determine the best Wi-Fi channels to allocate for voice traffic, to optimise performance. DECT operates in its own dedicated frequency band and as a result is unlikely to encounter interference.
- Suitability / features. What features are required and which solution supports them? For example, personal safety alarms/advanced duress, android-based Smartphone features, removable battery (for continuous usage) and barcode scanner. Also very important is the suitability of accessories including charging options, battery options, carrying options etc.
- Budget. While a VoWiFi solution may cost more up front than a DECT solution, assuming there is not a suitable Wi-Fi infrastructure to leverage, the actual benefits to the organisation can be much greater as Wi-Fi can be used for many other purposes and devices.
- Application integration. Review any third-party applications that need to be integrated with the cordless handsets. While both solutions support third-party application integration via standards-based protocols, VoWiFi offers more complex integration that delivers more sophisticated applications than DECT.
- Technical capability / complexity. While both solutions are wireless technologies and require a sound understanding of Radio Frequency (RF) technology, VoWiFi is a more complex technology with many more intricacies. As a result it will be more complex to scope, deploy and manage than a DECT infrastructure. For both solutions organisations need to select a reseller with the required skills to achieve a successful outcome.
Both DECT and VoWiFi solutions should be considered for opportunities where enterprise wireless voice is the primary requirement. When correctly deployed, both offer outstanding voice quality. However, it is the additional capabilities, along with budget, that will ultimately determine the outcome.