Cordless Phone Range

Cordless Phone Range
Numbers are very important to most human beings, especially men.

The male homo sapiens likes to know that his car has more horsepower, his stereo has more watts, his PC has more RAM, his satellite receiver has more channels, his TV has more inches... than the guy's next door.

With cordless phones, range is the important number, even though it's almost always unimportant.

Most people seldom take a cordless handset more than 20 feet from its base. 100 feet will take you far beyond most homes, and a football field is just 300 feet long... yet lots of people are asking for phones that can go a mile.

It's tough to find a cordless with that kind of CONSISTENT range. The EnGenius DuraFon has the longest range of any cordless phone that can legally be used in the US, and its range can be 1/2 mile to 5 miles or even more, depending on conditions.

That brings us to an important point. Back when gasoline was scarce (the first time, not because of Hurricane Katrina), lots of car commercials bragged about gas mileage, and then weaseled-out by stating that "your mileage may vary." It's that way with cordless phones, too. The advertised ranges are seldom equaled in the real world; and the same phone may behave very differently in two places, or even in the same place on two different days.

You may hear about cordless phones that can reach 30 miles or more. They are illegal to use in the United States.

SOME BASIC SCIENCE: With all else being equal, radio transmissions with higher frequencies, have shorter range than lower frequencies.

That's why UHF (ultra high frequency) TV stations don't reach as far as VHF (very high frequency) TV stations; and why FM stations (transmitting in the 88 - 108 megahertz band) don't reach as far as AM stations using the 540 - 1600 kilohertz band. Don't believe advertising claims about 2.4GHz phones providing extra long range.

Many phone makers now offer cordless phones that operate in the 5.8GHz band. This new higher frequency is not likely to provide important performance advantages.

In 2002, in an interview for TWICE, a consumer electronics trade magazine, VTech's cordless product manager Brad Pittmon said, "The market needed something new. The 5.8GHz frequency will take the positioning previously occupied by 2.4GHz DSS as the early adopter product, leaving 2.4GHz to the mass market. We are now gearing our 2.4GHz products to women and family users as opposed to the tech savvy."

On the other hand, Panasonic's consumer phone product manager Wayne Borg told AbleComm that 5.8GHz has a couple of real advantages: it won't pick up interference from microwave ovens, and won't cause interference with wireless networks or security systems.

The situation got more complicated in 2006, with the introduction of "DECT 6.0" cordless phones that operate in the 1.9GHz band. Unlike 2.4Ghz cordless, DECT 6.0 phones are virtually immune to household interference, and vice versa. If you have a wireless computer network in your home, DECT 6.0 won't disrupt your internet use.

Almost any modern cordless phone, except for obvious junk, can provide decent voice quality a hundred feet from the base -- more than enough for most users.

Cordless phones are generally able to maintain an existing conversation at a greater distance than they are able to start a conversation, and can ring at greater distances than they permit talking.

When you move around while using an analog cordless phone, near the end of its range, you will probably hear a "fluttering" sh-sh-sh sound.

In the same conditions, while using a digital phone, you will probably hear clicks.

  • Near the range limit of any cordless phone, slight movements and changes in position can make a big difference in performance. If you put your head between the handset and the base, you may lose the signal, but if you turn to let the handset be in line-of-sight with the base, it may work just fine.
  • Dense vegetation limits range, and wet leaves are worse than dry leaves.
  • Broadleaf trees (hardwoods such as oak, maple and birch) limit range more than conifers (softwoods such as pine, fir and cedar).
  • If you can get the base up high, you will probably get more range.
  • (last update 30 MAY 2007)