Voice Over Wi-Fi vs DECT: What You Need to Know
If you’re searching for a way to add mobility to your workplace communications, you’ve likely explored the option of leveraging your existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to deliver VoWLAN. On the surface, it seems like an ideal solution – money saved, mobility benefits added. But, when it comes to carrying your voice communications, is VoWLAN up for the task?
While VoWLAN may sound good in theory, there are some caveats to consider. Below we compare VoWLAN’s capabilities to DECT - an established standard for voice communications - so you can decide what's best for your organization.
First, what is DECT?
You're more than likely familiar with WiFi, but what is DECT? Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications, or DECT, is the leading technology for building multi-cellular radio networks for voice communication. It connects mobile handsets through networked base stations to provide cordless mobility for voice and data transmissions.
Can y-- hear me n-w?
Wi-Fi is a packet-based technology intended for data communications, so it should come as no surprise that it’s unreliable for voice communications. It’s simply not built for it, and shoehorning voice uses into a Wi-Fi system is bound to bring about problems.
Successful VoIP deployments must prioritize voice over data communications. Improper prioritization of competing data can result in audio gaps, distortion and dropped calls. DECT technology, on the other hand, was designed for voice communications from the start and operates on an isolated frequency, dedicating all of its resources to voice communication. And while Wi-Fi technology and the concept of VoWLAN are relatively new, DECT technology has been a tried and true voice communication method for over 20 years.
Location, location, location
Think VoWLAN is going to create a paradise of mobility for your business? You might want to think again. Since WLAN data applications are typically confined to the areas of a workplace where workstations and PCs are located, it typically doesn’t extend to halls, staircases or outdoor areas. VoWLAN doesn’t offer seamless roaming between access points, either. Suddenly, that VoWLAN mobility reach can start to feel like a very short leash.
Furthermore, when a user moves from one access point to another while making a voice call over WLAN, an encrypted tunnel must be reformed on a new access point, causing a break in conversation. That’s where the “seamless” part of VoWLAN starts to come unraveled. DECT networks, on the other hand, support uninterrupted handover for voice calls placed while the user is mobile.
Handsets: A question of quality at quantity
Typically, DECT is more scalable than VoWLAN, which usually supports seven active handsets per access point, with a more realistic limit of four or five handsets before quality suffers (three, if carrying data). A DECT implementation like Mitel SIP-DECT supports up to eight simultaneous calls per access point.
Keeping Confidential Information Confidential
Do employees at your company ever talk about sensitive information on the phone? Trade secrets? Identifying information? Medical data? When it comes to keeping your conversations secure, is it DECT or Wi-Fi that provides superior protection from compromise?
DECT technology offers built-in, well-recognized security protocols (like encryption, authentication and identification access security). This eliminates the need for external authentication services, minimizing IT effort for initial setup and security maintenance. Additionally, because DECT devices work on a closed wireless system, fraud scenarios like eavesdropping, impersonation and other security breaches are avoided.
A strong VoWLAN security strategy can be effectively deployed based on authentication, authorization, accounting and encryption measures, but it’s important to remember that this requires various IT policies and ongoing maintenance.
In summary, be sure to determine your security requirements and carefully consider your strategy for building, implementing and monitoring your privacy plan early on in the decision making process.
The true cost of doing business
For some businesses, the economics of VoWLAN will make sense, especially if they’ve fully evaluated things like call quality, true reach of mobility, security concerns and hardware issues. On the surface, leveraging existing Wi-Fi infrastructure may appear to be more cost effective than a DECT implementation.
Unfortunately, most companies underestimate the cost of upgrading a WLAN system to a full VoWLAN network, and fail to account for the fact that a VoWLAN upgrade isn’t strictly limited to hardware. The existing number of access points will need to be increased, which requires specialized expertise and careful channel allocation for each access point. Call quality may be sacrificed. Mobility may be limited. Security may be compromised. In order to really understand whether VoWLAN or DECT is the right fit for your business, do a true cost analysis that considers the benefits and shortcomings of both options.