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Cordless phones Making new connection
Panasonic KX-TG1032S with extra handset.
WI-FI FRIENDLY An $80 answerer with two handsets is a top-rated 1.9-GHz model.
Cordless phones are adapting to a world increasingly crowded with wireless and Internet-based devices. New phones can easily coexist with home networks or let you place calls over your cell-phone service or the Internet.

One of the most promising developments is the arrival of phones that operate at a different frequency than Wi-Fi networks, baby monitors, and other wireless devices. Skirting the congested 2.4- and 5.8-gigahertz (GHz) bands, these phones use the 1.9-GHz band, which is reserved for voice applications. The goal is to eliminate interference with other devices--and our tests showed it did exactly that. The new technology, called Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT, sometimes called DECT 6.0), also delivered much longer talk time than we've seen before, ranging from 12 to 24 hours. DECT phones from Philips, Panasonic, GE, and VTech are already on the market, though AT&T, surprisingly, had none at press time. You're likely to see more of these phones, possibly at lower prices, in coming months.

Even phones in the heavily trafficked 2.4-GHz band have tackled the interference problem. In our tests, two "LAN-friendly phones " minimized or eliminated interference by avoiding portions of the band used by Wi-Fi networks. If necessary, you can reset your router to a channel that doesn't conflict with the phone.

In another trend, a few cordless models in our Ratings (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) can stand in for your cell phone. By placing your cell phone near the cordless phone's base, you can access your wireless service via Bluetooth technology and use any handset to make or take cell calls. Besides the convenience of using one handset for all your calls, you might get better cell-phone reception within your home. It also makes it easier to use whichever account offers unused talk time.

Other cordless models let you switch between traditional landline and Internet phone service, also known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Such phones have a regular phone jack and an Ethernet jack for hookup to your home network. Heavy long-distance users can save big with VoIP if they have the required high-speed Internet access. Plans offered by cable companies typically include unlimited domestic calls for about $20 a month, plus comparatively low-cost international calls. One phone in our Ratings (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) uses a built-in VoIP service called Skype. Unlike cable-based VoIP services, Skype is a peer-to-peer service that lets you call any Skype subscriber in the world free. Connecting with non-Skypers in the U.S. is also a bargain--$90 a year.

Those new phones have just begun to trickle into the marketplace, so they represent only a few of the models in our Ratings (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers). If you don't have to be on the cutting edge, you'll find plenty of other solid choices at good prices in our Ratings (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers).


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