The Difference Between a Cordless & Cellular Phone

By David Weinberg

Cordless phones work with landlines.
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Despite the fact that most American adults own a cell phone, many people still have a landline in their home because of the lower service costs and lack of monthly minute limitations on a landline phone plan. People who want to move around while using their landline phone can use a cordless phone.


Cordless phones consist of a base station and the cordless phone itself. The base station is connected directly to a home's phone landline by a standard phone cord. The base station sends and receives voice data with the caller through the landline. It then broadcasts that information directly to and from the cordless phone. A cordless phone will not work if it is outside of the range of the base station. Cellular phones exchange voice data with a cellular data tower. If the cell phone moves outside of the tower's range, the cell phone network automatically transfers the call to another tower so that the user can continue his call as long as he is within range of at least one tower.


Cordless phones broadcast at 900 megahertz, 1.9 gigahertz, 2.4 gigahertz or 5.8 gigahertz. The broadcasting frequency is typically printed on the phone or its base station. Other devices in your home may also broadcast on some of the bands. The 2.4 gigahertz band is used by a number of devices that can cause interference, such as wireless routers, and devices that may transmit or receive their own voice data, such as baby monitors. Cellular phones broadcast at 900 megahertz, 1.8 gigahertz or 2.1 gigahertz. These frequency ranges are typically less congested so cell phones are less likely to cause or receive local interference.


Cell phone networks identify each cell phone on the network. This allows the network to keep track of each customer's voice and data usage while ensuring that each call is routed properly. Before using a cell phone, you need to activate the device with the cellular service provider either by installing an activated SIM card or by contacting the service providers. Cordless phones do not need to be registered with the phone company. They will work as long as they are within range of their base station and the base station is connected to an active phone line. Some cordless phone base stations will only identify with a specific cordless phone in order to prevent users with the same model of cordless phone from eavesdropping on calls.


There is some concern over potential negative health effects caused by cellular and cordless phones. Cordless phones usually remain relatively close to their base stations. As such, they broadcast at a relatively low power compared to cellular phones, which can be miles away from the nearest tower. Cordless phones have a maximum broadcasting power of 10 milliwatts. This rating puts the danger of cordless phones' signals at about 30 times below the level tolerated by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. Cellular phones can broadcast at up to 250 milliwatts at full power, but most cellular phones decrease their broadcast level to save power when they are close to a cellular tower. Although this is significantly higher than the broadcast power of a cordless phone, it is still within the ICNIRP's safety standards.