In practice, this means a European DECT device cannot be used in Brazil, and so on.
What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a wireless communication protocol that has a broader range of applications. In addition to enabling telecommunications, it allows for most types of data transfer between connected devices. Additionally, Bluetooth doesn’t rely on a base station---any Bluetooth-enabled device can connect to another one directly.
So how exactly do these two technologies compare to each other?
DECT vs. Bluetooth: Comparison
Despite both Bluetooth and DECT fulfilling largely the same function when it comes to communications, there are a few notable differences.
|Max. connected devices||8||1|
|Prerequisites||Bluetooth enabled on each device||Dedicated base station|
A Bluetooth headset can have up to 8 other devices on its pairing list and be connected to 2 of those at the same time. The only requirement is that all devices in question are Bluetooth-enabled. This makes Bluetooth headsets more versatile for everyday use.
DECT headsets are intended to be paired with a single dedicated base station or a dongle. In turn, these connect to devices like desk phones, softphones, etc. and can carry any number of simultaneous connections at a time, depending on the product in question. Because of their reliance on the base station / dongle, DECT headsets are primarily used in traditional office and contact center settings.
|Wireless range (indoors)||10 meters (33 feet) for Class 2 devices||55 meters (180 feet)|
|Notes||Varies greatly by device and situation||Chance of channel conflict|
Standard DECT headsets have an indoor operating range of around 55 meters (80 feet) but can reach up to 180 meters (590 feet) with direct line of sight. This range can be extended further---theoretically without limitations---by using wireless routers spaced around the office.
The operating range of Bluetooth varies by device class and usage. Generally speaking, Bluetooth devices fall into the following three classes:
- Class 1: Has a range of up to 100 meters (330 feet)
- Class 2: These have a range of about 10 meters (33 feet)
- Class 3: Range of 1 meter (3 feet). Not used in headsets.
Class 2 devices are by far the most widespread. Most smartphones and Bluetooth headsets fall into this category.
The true operating range of both Bluetooth and DECT is also affected by whether they’re used outdoors or indoors and the nature of obstacles between the devices in question. To mitigate this factor, DECT uses two so-called “diversity antennas,” always selecting the antenna with the best signal at any given time.
DECT has its own hypothetical limitation: DECT 6.0 in the US supports at most 60 channels per base station (120 channels in Europe). In theory, this means a busy office with numerous DECT connections within the 100-meter range may lead to a company running out of available channels. In practice, this is rarely an issue, as the range of a DECT device can be adjusted downwards to account for this.
|Safety measures||Shifting operating frequency||3-level security chain|
Security is a natural concern when it comes to potentially sensitive communications between parties. Fortunately, both DECT and Bluetooth standards are highly secure, with DECT offering a bit extra for highly sensitive conversations.
DECT has a 3-level security chain. First, the headset is paired with a base station via a DECT Standard Authentication Algorithm (DSAA) that validates the initial connection. Some devices on the market use the more secure DSAA2 algorithm. Second, when a new call is initiated, the security bindings between the headset and the station are verified to ensure the call takes place between two authorized devices. Third, the voice data itself is encrypted using 64-bit encryption, making it unusable to any intercepting party.
Headsets like EPOS’s IMPACT SDW 5000 Series take DECT security a step further. IMPACT SDW 5000 uses a so-called “Protected Pairing” process that transfers sensitive pairing data via the base station’s charging terminal instead of the typical over-the-air protocol. Additionally, it relies on a highly secure DSAA2 authentication algorithm that uses AES-128-bit keys during pairing.
Finally, while a Bluetooth headset will automatically reestablish connection to any device on its pairing list, DECT will only connect when a user initiates this manually. This helps DECT eliminate another source of potential security risk.
Bluetooth uses a similar validation process for the initial pairing. While pairing is done over the air, the pairing range is usually greatly reduced to eliminate the chance of outside interception.
Bluetooth devices use 128-bit data encryption. Paired Bluetooth devices also constantly shift their operating frequency to further improve security.
For everyday use, both DECT and Bluetooth provide a high level of security, making calls virtually impossible to intercept. For those especially concerned with the privacy of their calls---e.g. health care professionals, legal consultants, or similar---DECT offers an extra level of security.
Another major factor when using wireless headsets in a busy office is density. This refers to how many nearby devices can be active at the same time without interfering with each other’s connections or degrading audio quality. The more live devices in any given area, the higher the density, and the higher the chance of radio interference.
DECT headsets can support much higher user densities compared to Bluetooth. Additionally, Bluetooth headsets can experience interference from other devices on the same open 2.4 GHz frequency, such as WiFi routers, printers, TV sets, and so on. That’s not an issue for DECT headsets, which operate within their own dedicated frequency range. This is why DECT excels in crowded environments like contact centers when it comes to connection quality and stability.
|Call quality||Prone to interference||High and stable|
|Compatibility||Any Bluetooth-enabled device||Only deskphone or softphone|
The dedicated telecommunications nature of DECT devices guarantees a more stable, clear call quality. Bluetooth devices can experience external interference, which could lead to occasional drops in call quality.
At the same time, Bluetooth is far more versatile when it comes to usage scenarios. Most Bluetooth devices can easily pair with each other. DECT relies on its base station and is limited to the deskphones or softphones with which it is paired.
DECT or Bluetooth: Which One Is Right for You?
There is no clear-cut winner in this race. Both wireless standards offer a secure, reliable way to connect telecommunications devices with each other. What you choose depends largely on your professional situation.
Office or Contact Center worker: DECT
For people working from a fixed location and relying on a single desk phone or softphone, DECT headsets are the obvious choice. DECT is highly secure, its long range allows for trips around the office while maintaining connection, and the call quality is generally higher and more stable.
Hybrid or On-the-go Worker: Bluetooth
For hybrid workers or those who’re often on the road, Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones are the better option. They can maintain pairings to multiple devices, allowing users to seamlessly switch between their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Bluetooth headsets are typically more portable and do not require a dedicated base station to operate. Their limited range is rarely an issue in practice, since the devices they’re used with tend to remain close to the owner during calls.
DECT and Bluetooth Headsets by EPOS
EPOS delivers high-end audio solutions for enterprises, including a range of headsets for both DECT and Bluetooth users. The IMPACT 5000 even combines the best of both worlds: It’s based on DECT technology but can also connect via Bluetooth through a dongle.
To explore the entire EPOS DECT and Bluetooth headset product range, please visit the EPOS website.