Cordless phone buying guide

Looking for a new cordless phone can be a little overwhelming. Which platform is right for you: DECT 6.0? 5.8 GHz? 2.4 GHz? Should you go digital or analog? The right phone can help you catch important calls, ensure privacy, and even manage a busy household. With the growing number of models that enable you to add accessory handsets to your existing base station using only one phone jack, you can create a multi-handset phone system within your home. We've created a quick summary of the choices you will face and outlined five key features you may want to consider for clearer and easier communication.

What's the difference between 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz and DECT 6.0 phones?

Your cordless phone is actually a radio transmitter/receiver that operates across a designated radio frequency. The three dominant platforms are 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz and DECT 6.0. Each platform can affect the signal clarity and the range your phone can reach from its base station; however, the actual range and sound quality of your phone can also be affected by obstructions within your home and interference from other electronic devices. Here are some general guidelines for choosing one of the four platforms:

2.4 GHz

2.4 GHz phones are losing shelf space to 5.8 GHz and DECT 6.0 models. As with the more popular platforms, 2.4 GHz models can host a variety of features, such as integrated answering systems, caller ID, speakerphones and support for multiple handsets. One thing to keep in mind is that other electronic gadgets, including baby monitors, microwave ovens and wireless networking gear may create interference on your 2.4 GHz phone. If you use these items in your home, consider purchasing a 5.8 GHz or DECT 6.0 phone.

5.8 GHz

5.8 GHz phones offer great clarity and range. The biggest advantage to a 5.8 GHz phone is that its frequency band is less congested than the 2.4 GHz band, resulting in less interference. 5.8 GHz phones are plentiful in the marketplace today and competitively priced.

DECT 6.0

DECT 6.0 technology is the latest cordless platform, providing improved range without needing to boost the power. This platform has been set aside exclusively for cordless phone use, which means that DECT 6.0 models have superior sound quality and do not suffer from interference created by wireless networks. This reliable technology has been in use for a number of years in Europe and has proven to provide brilliant quality of voice and sound, high protection against eavesdropping and better range than 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz phone systems.

Analog versus digital

Besides transmitting your voice on a designated radio frequency, a cordless phone sends your voice in analog or digital format, depending on the model.


Analog technology has been around for decades. With an analog phone, your voice is converted to electronic pulses and then transmitted on your phone's designated frequency between handset and base. Analog cordless phones tend to be the most affordable and available option. You will experience adequate range and good voice quality. Drawbacks include poor security (anyone with a radio scanner will be able to listen in) and the potential for static and interference when you move too far away from the base unit.


Digital technology converts your voice to a series of zeros and ones; otherwise known as binary code, the language of computers. The transmitted code is sent on your phone's designated frequency between handset and base, then decoded back to the original signal that you and the other party understands.

Digital cordless phones provide a stronger, clearer signal with enhanced security. Digital transmissions are less prone to static and interference. Most digital phones have the ability to switch to alternate channels when interference is detected, thus providing enhanced clarity over analog models. In addition, digital phones demonstrate enhanced range over comparable analog models.

Many 5.8 GHz and 2.4 GHz models use digital technology. This will be listed on the packaging and sales literature along with the other features. All DECT 6.0 models are digital.

Digital spread spectrum

Digital Spread Spectrum technology is another form of digital data transmission. The primary difference between conventional analog or digital models and DSS is that spread spectrum phones continually change channels during your conversation, only staying on a channel for a fraction of a second. This keeps others from "locking on" and eavesdropping, as well as avoiding areas of interference.

Like DECT 6.0, a digital spread spectrum (DSS) cordless phone provides enhanced clarity and security. Since the voice transmission is first digitized and then distributed in binary code across several frequencies, it is almost impossible for others to eavesdrop on your conversations. Channel hopping increases clarity because it limits the effects of other environmental sources of interference. DSS also provides enhanced range, as these models are allowed to run at a higher power level, thus boosting the signal.

Five key features to consider

When purchasing your next AT&T cordless phone, consider these popular features:

Multi-handset systems

A multi-handset phone system consists 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. Therefore, phones can be placed in rooms where there are no phone jacks, such as a garage, living room or spare bedroom.

In addition to providing flexibility as to where you can place phones in your home, multi-handset models have other convenient features such as the ability to transfer calls from one handset to another and the ability to use the handsets as an intercom system. For example, if you need to ask someone upstairs a question, there is no need to yell or walk all the way up. Simply pick up your phone and intercom the upstairs handset. Multi-handset models feature line-in-use indication that lets you know when someone is using the phone. No more accidental interruptions!

AT&T offers two types of multi-handset systems: expandable and multi-handset bundles. Expandable systems give you the ability to add accessory handsets. This flexibility allows you to design a phone system that meets your specific needs. Bundles include two or more handsets in one box, and usually cannot be expanded beyond what is included.

BLUETOOTH® connectivity

Imagine your cordless phone system working in sync with your BLUETOOTH® mobile phone. AT&T offers a multi-handset solution that lets you make and receive cellular calls from any system handset.

Answering systems

Many AT&T cordless telephones feature an integrated digital answering system, making it easy to avoid having one more gadget on your desk or kitchen counter. Digital answering systems record outgoing announcements and incoming messages on a microchip. Tapeless operation assures reliable performance, instant access to messages and the ability to selectively save and delete messages. Available features include remote access to retrieve messages when you're away from home, plus the ability to leave voice memos for others in your home or office.

Caller ID/call waiting

If you subscribe to Caller ID service from your phone company, compatible phones will display the name and number of incoming calls on the LCD screen. Phones that are also Call Waiting capable will show you the identity of a second incoming call. This convenient feature lets you decide if you want to answer a call and allows you to use the memory feature of Caller ID to return a call, even if the caller did not leave a message.


Handy for meetings, conference calling and long on-hold times, many AT&T base units and cordless handsets also function as a speakerphone. In addition, most multi-handset systems feature an intercom, allowing you to talk between handsets or between handset and base.