DECT vs. Bluetooth: How to choose the right wireless headset

As you hunt for wireless headsets, you’ll likely come across the so-called “DECT standard.” You may find yourself wondering just what DECT is and how it differs from Bluetooth. We hope this post puts the matter to rest.

DECT vs. Bluetooth

DECT stands for “Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications,” although it’s also known as “Digital European Cordless Telecommunications” – which makes sense, because it’s a standard that originated in Europe.

It is widely used in wireless phone systems to connect the cordless phone to a base station. DECT has many other applications, ranging from baby monitors to industrial remote controls. But in this post, we’ll focus on the phone systems.

DECT is used for both consumer and corporate phones. In the latter case, it can be used with a PBX (private branch exchange) and a wireless LAN to let users move around the office without losing their calls.

The standard is widely used in most countries. It works near the 1.9 GHz frequency band, where it does not interfere with other wireless technologies, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

We say “most countries,” because North America is a little different. Due to US radio frequency regulations, the country uses its own standard: DECT 6.0. While it’s almost identical to regular DECT, technology that uses the US standard is not compatible with DECT systems elsewhere.

DECT vs. Bluetooth: Security

Security of your wireless conversations is a natural concern.

To quote Dennis Majikas, a service engineer at Jabra: “People are concerned that others may be able to tap into their call via the wireless connection, but that is almost impossible to do once authentication is established.”

It works as follows: First, the headset establishes an authenticated connection with the base. This requires a number of “handshakes” and creates a secure link. Once that happens, the headset turns voice into digital data, encrypts it, and passes only the encrypted data back to the base, making the conversation highly secure.

“DECT uses a 64-bit encryption, and Bluetooth has a 128-bit encryption. So once the headsets are appropriately paired with their base stations, the chance of someone effectively listening in on a call is virtually nil,” says Majikas.

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Jabra PRO™ 9400 Series offers a secure DECT connection

DECT vs. Bluetooth: The Distance Dilemma

One of the biggest differences between DECT and Bluetooth is that DECT has a far greater range: around 100 meters (330 feet).

Bluetooth range depends on which class is used:

  • Class 1 has a range of about 100 meters (330 feet).
  • Class 2 is about 10 meters (33 feet).
  • Class 3 is only 1 meter (3 feet).

In an office environment, a Bluetooth base station would typically be Class 1, as would the headset. But a smartphone is usually Class 2, so if that same headset was to answer a call from the smartphone, it would automatically adjust itself to the Class 2 power level. (Class 3 is usually only used for devices such as keyboards and mice.)

But DECT’s greater range can be both a blessing and a curse. In the US, DECT supports a maximum of 60 channels on a given base station. In Europe, that number is 120. In a dense office environment – such as a call center – companies may run out of available channels, even though plenty of additional users are well within range of the base station.

In that case, a few things can be done:

First, the office setup must be carefully thought out – placing base stations sufficiently far away from each other so as not to cause interference.

Second, DECT range can be turned down to about 20 meters (60 feet) in high-density environments to minimize interference.

DECT vs. Bluetooth: Connectivity Considerations

Another difference is that a DECT headset can only connect to one other device – namely the base station that provides a connection to the phone network.

A single Bluetooth device can connect to up to 8 other devices simultaneously.  So the same Bluetooth headset could be used to connect to a user’s mobile phone, computer, tablet, and desk phone.

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Jabra Motion Series can connect to multiple devices.

So the headset choice largely depends on how it will be used.

If your users need it only for desk- or computer-based phones – as in a call center – a DECT headset makes sense (as long as you don’t run into the above channel limitation). The headsets will be secure and will let users move about freely.

On the other hand, if the headset will also be used with a mobile phone, then Bluetooth may make more sense. Mobility is less of an issue: People have their mobile phones with them anyway, so they’re well within the 10-meter limit.

The ability to use the same headset for both office and mobile phones is convenient. If you’ve got a UC system that enables uninterrupted hand-offs between computer-based soft phones and mobile devices, that’s even better – a single Bluetooth headset should be all your users need.

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Jabra offers a selection of wireless office headsets that support both the Bluetooth and DECT standards.