Big promises for Dect - the new buzzword in your ears

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 January, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 January, 1998, 12:00am

Digital enhanced cordless technology (Dect) is a European technology that was created to enable personal communication.

Eric Spain, managing director of Avitel, a local telecommunications consultancy, probably is the SAR's most knowledgeable person on Dect.

This is hardly surprising because Mr Spain also is the executive secretary of the Dect Forum, a local interest group.

'Dect is not just another technology for producing cordless telephones,' he said. 'Dect has an 'in-built intelligence' that allows it to seek out the best possible channel or frequency so that the quality of the connection will always be the best possible.' Unlike many of the cheap Japanese cordless telephones that can be bought in Hong Kong, Dect not only is more robust, it is meant to be used in an office, in a robust environment and not just for voice telephony, according to Mr Spain.

It is able to handle all kinds of data communications and even supports ISDN (integrated services digital network).

Mr Spain said cellular phones were terrific for people on the move who did not mind inferior quality. The mobile phone succeeded because of its ability to reach people almost anywhere.

However, he said Dect was more like a private network.

'Dect provides you with your own private radio network in your premises and connects to your fixed-telecom service with no extra costs to calls,' Mr Spain said.

Security was another aspect to the Dect system that many people would like.

'It is even more secure than a fixed line - it is virtually impossible to tap a Dect connection,' Mr Spain said.

Dect can improve contactability as well as productivity, according to Mr Spain.

'Studies have shown that 70 per cent of calls fail to reach their destination on the first attempt. After many attempts, the result is an unhappy customer or even a lost one.' Not only is there lost time when a customer cannot reach someone, there is added cost in making the return call. Much of this, Mr Spain said, could be saved with a Dect system.

The ability to carry a telephone around the office and be available almost always is obviously something that certain companies find extremely valuable.

Dect, although not expensive, is not as cheap as a cordless telephone. However, it does rather more than a cordless telephone and has a far greater range.

Siemens, which makes a Dect telephone, said users could roam between 50 metres and 300 metres away from the telephone base, while cordless telephone users were restricted to a range of between 10 metres and 20 metres. Conditions could affect both.

Some areas where Dect has proved itself useful are factories, hotels and hospitals.

Dect systems allow for what Mr Spain called 'hot desking', or offices where there are no permanent desks for employees. They simply arrive and find an empty desk: there is no need to assign a particular phone to a particular desk. This would be ideal for salesmen or support personnel who travel a lot.

'In many situations, the provision of mobility using Dect can lead to better service, improved working environment and measurable economies. Releasing people from the old idea of a tether is leading to new ideas and applications,' he said.

A Dect system gets its radio coverage using one or more base stations, placed so that people moving about are always in contact with one.

Handover from one base station to another is seamless, unlike some systems where there can be a delay of as long as a few seconds.

Frequency planning is also unnecessary, because Dect has been given a wide band of spectrum to accommodate 120 channels. A single base station can handle 12 calls simultaneously. If this is not enough, more base stations can be added.

Mr Spain even recommended that engineers should not try to work out how many base stations should be needed by looking at a floor plan. It would be better to think about the functionality.

If one draws up a functional specification and asks the bidders to accommodate it, the results will probably be much better.

'One great advantage of this is that the successful bidder is then obliged to meet the functional requirement. Siting of base stations requires experience - radio systems are never wholly predictable,' he said.

Dect systems and phones are available in Hong Kong from Alcatel, Philips, Siemens and Ericsson. There are even some manufacturers here, such as VTech and NSN. The Chinese University of Hong Kong is also actively interested in developing these systems.

All of the advantages of Dect were available without the need of a special licence, Mr Spain said.

DECT CHECK-LIST 'In-built intelligence' allows it to seek out clearest channel or frequency Units built to take knocks in a robust environment, such as a busy office Handles all types of data communications and supports ISDN Provides an internal radio network in your premises and can connect to a fixed-telecom service in your premises at no cost Claimed to be more secure than a fixed line and virtually impossible to tap Use of multiple base stations allows full roaming within an office or factory