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Are Ultra Long Range Cordless Phones Legal In The U.S.?
Above: Engenius Phone (legal)
If you Google the term "ultra long range cordless phone" you will find a variety of sites that come up with many different kinds of phones offering ranges up to thirty miles or greater. These phones are not for use in the United States and are sold for export use only. While it may be tempting to buy one of these from a drop shipper in an overseas country and have it shipped to the U.S. you probably don't want to do that.
As the author of this article I have a friend who imported a Harvest brand ultra long range cordless phone from his vacation home in Mexico and was using it in his home in California. Everything was fine, for about two years. He was able to use his own home phone like a cell phone all around his community and as far out as ten miles, using an antenna placed up on his roof. One day the FCC showed up at his door.
The problem with using export long range cordless phones like the Harvest brand phone and ones by Senao and other makers is that most use a frequency of 263 and 393 megahertz. These bands are used by other services in the United States and my friend's phone signal was walking all over local ham operators and military users on the same frequency. Since it is relatively easy to lock in on and track where a radio signal is coming from, the FCC or Federal Communications Commission was able to locate my friend fairly quickly once a compliant was made.
My friend ended up not getting a fine from the FCC but instead having to surrender his expensive phone system to the agents. So, if you have entertained the thought of buying one of these ultra long range export cordless phones and sneaking it into the United States, don't try it. The FCC might not be as lenient. Fines for unauthorized use of a military radio frequency can be very high and even include jail time.
Legal Alternatives To Export Long Range Cordless Phones
Up until a few years ago the only alternative to export long range cordless phones that was legal in the U.S. was to get a license for a business radio system. These, plus license fees and the equipment needed to allow phone calls could run over $15,000. Not a cheap way to get rid of cell phones.
An alternative that is now legal for U.S. residents are long range 900 Mhz spread spectrum phones. There are a couple of makers who advertise their phones for very long range use, which means about six miles under ideal circumstances. Engenius is the most popular maker. The SN-920 Ultra has a power of almost one full watt, which is about five times most cordless phones and supports up to 36 handsets. FHSS or frequency hopping spread spectrum ensures your calls are private.
The Engenius series long range cordless works like an intercom system, allowing for walkie talkie transmission between phones and as a regular phone system. I use one of these on my small farm and it works to about five miles with the outside antenna at forty feet. This range is under ideal circumstances with me standing in the open, outside of a home or car. Engenius advertises a range of nearly 9 miles and I am sure this is possible but have not achieved that range personally. Nevertheless, it is a good way to save on my cell phone bill.
EnGenius SN920ULTRA 900 MHz DSS + High Gain External Antenna = Long Range (up to 9 Miles)
The system above, which I use on my small farm, works very well around the entire acreage and off of the property up to five miles. I have the antenna mounted on top of my chimney at a vertical height of twenty feet. I'm happy with the system and would recommend it for any small farm or business or for homeowners who want a phone that works throughout the neighborhood without any cell phone fees.
The Durafon system by Engenius is the industrial version of the phone above. It features a more rugged rubberized handsets, can handle call waiting and up to four lines.
EnGenius Durafon Industrial Phone / Intercom Compatible with outdoor antenna pictured above.
How to boost range.
To get the maximum range out of the system above mount the antenna as high as possible. You can get a longer cable than the thirty foot one supplied with the antenna, however you do lose some signal with a longer run. It is best to mount the phone near an outside wall, drill a hole through the wall and run the antenna up to a height of about twenty feet. This generally will give you very good range unless there is a large object at the same height as the antenna, in which case you will need to order the sixty foot cable length and get the antenna up higher.
Some users have bought modified antennas for 900 Mhz that are directional, and report that they can get up to twenty miles of range in one direction. However that being said, it is illegal to use a directional antenna that is not approved for such use.