Demystifying the IP-DECT versus VoWiFi debate

25/9/23, 9:00 am

Digital transformation efforts are essential for business success with many organisations increasingly investing in solutions that facilitate improved communication to drive efficiencies and productivity across teams. One key area of investment is in wireless communication systems that let teams share information whenever and from wherever they need to, without interruption. This is especially true for organisations that operate in industries where staff mobility is essential, such as health, retail, warehousing, and manufacturing.

The two most popular wireless communication solutions are Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) and Internet Protocol Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (IP-DECT). In most but not all cases, IP-DECT solutions are the superior choice because they offer greater reliability and coverage than their VoWiFi counterparts. Yet many IT managers and business leaders often choose VoWiFi over IP-DECT due to the perceived notion that it is a single infrastructure that already fits into an established Wi-Fi network, whereas an IP-DECT solution would require two separate infrastructures. Noting that, most organisations already have an established Wi-Fi network underpinning their operations. However, this thinking is incorrect. In fact, VoWiFi requires additional investment and professional services to separate voice from data on their shared wireless network. However, IP-DECT, as a dedicated voice wireless communication solution, does not.

IP-DECT versus VoWiFi: which is best?

The misconception occurs because people believe that an underlying Wi-Fi infrastructure is the same for voice calls, but this is not the case. It is true that Wi-Fi solutions rely on a single architecture (but not network) for both voice and data communication.

Ultimately, Wi-Fi was developed for data communication, and it works exceptionally well in this capacity. The same technology is reused to provide voice over the top for VoWiFi solutions; however, VoWiFi still must separate voice from data on the network. It requires businesses to invest in additional Wi-Fi supporting technologies—such as Quality of Service (QoS), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2), and a high-quality business grade router—which can increase costs. At the same time, using data and voice traffic over the same frequencies in a VoWiFi solution reduces the efficacy of each stream; in short, the voice quality suffers due to shared bandwidth. Additionally, higher data traffic has a correspondingly high impact on voice traffic, and vice versa. This means that VoWiFi also has a maximum number of five simultaneous calls.

Comparatively, IP-DECT was developed as a dedicated wireless communication solution for high-quality voice transmission. The technology has been in use since the early 1990s, accumulating years of experience in its operation. IP-DECT solutions operate across their own independent frequency, rather than relying on shared bandwidth, like their VoWiFi counterparts. This means that the number of simultaneous calls more than doubles to 10 calls at a time across a single access point (AP). Furthermore, an IP-DECT solution doesn’t need the additional supporting solutions, which helps to keep costs down. IP-DECT solutions also use APs that deliver a larger coverage area.

In VoWiFi solutions, the VoWiFi handsets manage the process of handing over voice communication from one access point to another. These handsets typically use a single channel for voice communication and may put the call on hold while searching for a new access point with better signal quality.

On the other hand, IP-DECT solutions leverage a dual-channel system in their handsets. One channel is dedicated to maintaining continuous voice communication, while the second channel actively seeks out stronger signals to ensure a smooth handover process when needed. This two-channel approach in IP-DECT helps in providing seamless voice communication and improved signal quality.

The IP-DECT difference

Across industries like health, retail, warehousing, manufacturing, and small offices, IP-DECT has emerged as a valuable asset in the communications arsenal. Moreover, high-quality voice, better coverage, cost savings, and more simultaneous calls aren’t the only benefits it delivers to businesses.

One of the biggest benefits of IP-DECT solutions over VoWiFi is the fact that they are based on mature, reliable technology, making them perfect for use in industries where radio wave-reflective building material is present. For example, in retail or warehousing, where there is forklift traffic or pallets stacked high, radio frequencies can bounce, rendering VoWiFi solutions inefficient. Because IP-DECT solutions are on a lower frequency, they are less susceptible to radio reflection compared to the 2.4 Ghz/5 Ghz frequency; as such, they face significantly fewer disruptions.

IP-DECT solutions, being on a lower dedicated frequency range and outputting at a lower power level, are considered at low risk of interfering with medical devices, making them a viable solution in a life-saving health and medical environment.

When integrated with location tracking software such as Ekahau or MobiCall, IP-DECT solutions offer an additional advantage. This integration enables the precise real-time tracking of handset locations, particularly those belonging to staff members. This capability proves invaluable in locating personnel quickly when needed. IP-DECT solutions are more than voice only; they also support services like messaging (nurse call systems and SOS key function for warehousing and health), which benefits from the reliability and stability of DECT technology.

Making the move to IP-DECT devices

IP-DECT has emerged as the superior solution for wireless communications, especially in industries rife with highly reflective surfaces that can disrupt communications in life- and mission-critical environments. However, despite its enhanced coverage, improved call quality, and cost-effectiveness, there are still cases when IP-DECT is not the ideal solution, such as when a smart app is required on a mobile device. These tend to be the exception, not the rule.

To learn more about the benefits of IP-DECT for wireless communication in your business, or to learn how to support your organisation with a VoWiFi solution that maps to your specific needs when IP-DECT isn’t suitable, contact your sales or channel account manager, or complete the form below.


Brett Byleveld
Product Manager, NEC Australia