It is a fair bet that not many people even in the broadband and broadcast community have yet heard of CAT-iq, while at the same time they may have forgotten about its predecessor DECT, the digital cordless telephony standard. Yet DECT is still very much alive and well, while CAT-iq (Cordless Advanced Telephony – Internet and Quality), has emerged as a very important wireless standard for the home network that will run alongside WiFi. It can be regarded as the next generation of DECT, but is more than that, since it goes beyond voice to place a stake in the emerging world of converged home networks that will bring together all the digital media and communications needs of the home within a single infrastructure. CAT-iq does not do the whole job, because it is a low bandwidth standard for voice, data and home automation, leaving Wi-Fi to distribute broadband services and HD video. But as the name suggests, CAT-iq brings convergence with the Internet, while adding support for high quality of service focusing primarily on high definition voice, specifying mandatory levels for various quality parameters. For these reasons it is of great interest to vendors of home operating platforms such as SoftAtHome, which has become the first software provider to gain certification on an Home Gateway for CAT-iq 2.0 from the CETECOM laboratory, one of the official qualification laboratories of the DECT Forum.
CAT-iq represents a new level of ambition for DECT, since it breaks away from the purely voice focus to take on other, so far better known, RF (Radio Frequency) technologies for low power audio, signaling and automation communications within the home, notably Zigbee and Bluetooth. The reason for CAT-iq’s ability to take these on lies in DECT’s pedigree as a long proven technology for distributing voice and data within the home with very low electromagnetic emission and power consumption, which have become more important with the growing focus on energy use and green issues. It also avoids royalty payments, and is low cost because of the economy of scale already achieved through a large community of DECT system manufacturers, while unlike the other RF technologies including ZigBee and Bluetooth it is immune from interference from Wi-Fi interference in the 2.4GHz band. The latter is very important, because WiFi is the only game in town for short range wireless HD video delivery, and so whatever low power technology is used for home automation will have to coexist with it. For these reasons we will be hearing a lot more about CAT-iq, even if it does not quite become a household acronym.
[blog written by Philip Hunter for Videonet]