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A cordless phone is actually a radio transmitter/receiver that operates across a designated radio frequency, mainly 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz or DECT 6.0, each of which has different signal clarity and range from its base station, both factors which can also be affected by obstructions within your home and interference from other electronic devices. You're likely to find a mix of all these platforms on offer when you go searching for a cordless phone, so it's a good idea to have a basic idea of what each one means.

2.4 GHz phones are no longer as popular as they once were, as they can suffer interference from other electrical devices in your home. For this reason, they tend to be the cheapest option, but many still boast a variety of features, such as caller ID, integrated answering machines and support for multiple handsets.

5.8 GHz phones, which now make up most of the mid-priced home market, have very clear reception and can be taken quite a long way away from their base stations. Their biggest advantage is that this frequency band is less congested than the 2.4 GHz band, resulting in less interference.

DECT 6.0 is the latest cordless platform, with a bandwidth set aside purely for cordless phone use, so they suffer from virtually no interference from other electric devices. They also have a much bigger range and outstanding sound quality.

Besides deciding on the radio frequency to go with, you've then got to decide whether to opt for an analog or digital model. With analog phones, which have been around for ages, your voice is converted to electronic pulses and then transmitted on your phone's designated frequency between handset and base. Analog units tend to be the most affordable and available option, but can be easily eavesdropped by anyone with a radio scanner, and suffer from static interference if you move too far away from the base unit. Digital technology converts your voice to binary code, which is then sent on your phone's designated frequency between handset and base, then decoded back to the original signal. This provides a stronger, clearer signal with better security and a longer range. Most digital phones can even switch to alternate channels when interference is detected, for uninterrupted reception.
The very latest cordless phone models use Spread Spectrum technology, which continually jumps from one channel to another to prevent unauthorized access to your calls and buffer against interference. DSS also delivers an enhanced range, as these models run at a higher power level, thus boosting the signal. They are, of course, the most expensive.

Before you buy, decide whether one handset is going to be enough. If you want one phone in the bedroom, one in the kitchen and one in the living room, for example, then look for a multi-handset system consisting of a single base unit and two or more handsets. The base unit acts as a standard phone, and is plugged into both an electrical outlet and a phone jack. The satellite handsets all work off the signal from the base, and only need their chargers to be plugged into an electrical outlet, with no connection to a phone jack - giving great flexibility to where you can site them. Multi-handset models also allow you to transfer calls from one handset to another or use the handsets as an internal intercom system. There are two types of multi-handset systems: expandable and multi-handset bundles. Expandable systems give you the ability to add accessory handsets as you need them, while bundles include two or more handsets in one box, and cannot normally be expanded beyond what is included.

Author R. Germain
date added Wed 05 08 2009

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