Fact Checked

What is a Wireless Handset?

Victoria Blackburn
Victoria Blackburn

A wireless handset is the part of a telephone that is held in the hand and contains the speaker and the microphone. Rather than using a direct connection with wires, a telephone with a wireless handset uses radio waves to communicate from the handset to a stationary base and vice versa. The base station is attached to the local area telephone line just as a regular telephone would be.

Different than a mobile telephone, a cordless telephone with wireless handset has a base station that plugs into the owner’s regular landline telephone. The base station is connected to the subscriber’s telephone line via a direct plug in connection to the telephone wall jack. Wireless handsets have become popular, as they allow freedom of movement while allowing the user to remain on the telephone.

Cordless telephone systems utilize wireless handsets.
Cordless telephone systems utilize wireless handsets.

Introduced in the 1980’s, initial wireless handset telephones were quite crude. Most of the handsets were quite large, heavy and brick-shaped. They usually included a telescopic antenna as well as the microphone and speaker. It was not uncommon for users to experience interference unless they remained close to the base unit, which basically defeated the purpose of making the handset wireless.

Most modern wireless handsets boast a range of around 100 feet or about 30 meters. Cheaper models often have less range and the range varies with battery strength. Some manufacturers claim that higher frequencies improve the audio quality. It has been shown that the signal strength and antenna quality are more influential over the audio interference.

Unlike a regular telephone, a cordless telephone requires electricity to function. Most wireless handsets are powered by a rechargeable battery, which is charged as it is secured in the base station’s cradle. While the wireless handset is resting in the base station cradle, it is re-charged via a trickle charge from the household current. 900 MHz, 1.9 MHz, 2.4 GHz or 5.8GHz radio frequency bands are what are commonly used for wireless telephones today. To conserve battery life, some advertised 5.8 GHz telephones actually transmit from base to wireless handset at 5.8 GHz and transmit from phone to base at 2.4 GHz or 900 MHz.

Currently, wireless handsets offer digital technology to provide clear sound and increased security. Analog technology is not as secure and can often be picked up by radio scanners. To prevent eavesdropping, digital technology uses "frequency hopping." Frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) is a security regime that transmits radio signals in a sequence that is known to the transmitter and the receiver only, basically blocking all other users from intercepting the call.

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    • Cordless telephone systems utilize wireless handsets.
      By: Michael Shake
      Cordless telephone systems utilize wireless handsets.