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snom m3

At a Glance
Product snom m3 IP DECT phone
Summary Full-featured business-class cordless IP phone system
Pros • Easy setup
• Very good call quality
• Good cordless range
• Excellent battery life
• Multiple simultaneous SIP registrations
Cons • Contact list not remote provisioned
• No use of SIP URIs
• No dedicated function keys
• No support for G.722
• Weak speakerphone

I have worked from a home office for over ten years. Just over two years ago, I transitioned both my home and office to a completely VoIP-based phone system. My goal was to improve my ability to stay connected while reducing my monthly operating costs. I carefully selected high quality, business-class SIP desk phones with a variety of features to make running a small office easier.

This conversion went very well with one exception: it lacked a well-integrated SIP-based cordless phone solution.

I began by using a traditional cordless phone and an analog terminal adapter (ATA). This worked passably, but didn’t deliver the features (multiple lines, hold, transfer, call waiting, conferencing, etc.) that I’d grown to rely upon in my wired IP phones.

Next, I tried a couple of the newer Wi-Fi SIP handsets. These were disappointing as well. While better able to integrate with the other phones, they suffered a great many problems: poor battery life, short range... and too many more to mention.

Therefore, when in late in 2007 I read that snom was introducing a professional SIP/DECT cordless phone system, I was eager to see if this would be the solution I’d been seeking. I was fortunate enough to acquire an m3 system from the very first shipment imported into the US.

snom is a well-established German maker of SIP desk phones. The m3 is their first effort at a cordless phone. While some companies have tried to leverage Wi-Fi network infrastructure to implement cordless phones, the results have not generally been satisfactory for business and professional applications.

In the design of the m3, snom has combined the European DECT cordless technology with VoIP connectivity based on the widespread SIP standard. This puts the m3 in the vanguard of a new wave of cordless VoIP phones.

What is DECT?

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) is a wireless communication standard that evolved in Europe over the past twenty years. DECT technology can be used for wireless data networking, but is most typically used in cordless phones.

The DECT standard specifies a range of things about how cordless handsets and base stations interact. The most common DECT profile is the Generic Access Profile, a.k.a. GAP. GAP compliance allows devices from various manufacturers to work together seamlessly.

One of the nicer features of DECT is the ability to seamlessly hand off calls as a handset moves between multiple base stations in a large facility. This can be a tremendous benefit when trying to provide uniform cordless phone coverage in large office buildings or warehouses.

Until recently, most cordless phones in North America, including a limited number of DECT systems, used the very congested 2.4 GHz unlicensed band, which is the same frequency as Wi-Fi 802.11b networking devices. This often led to interference between cordless phones and Wi-Fi networks. In contrast, European DECT devices use the 1.9 GHz band—well below Wi-Fi networks—eliminating the interference problem.

In 2005, the FCC amended regulations governing licensing of the 1.9 GHz band. This cleared the way for the sale of DECT 6.0 devices in the US. Looking at major retailers, we see DECT systems quickly displacing older, proprietary systems. Major players in this space include Polycom, Aastra, Panasonic, Uniden, Philips, and Siemens, among others.

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