Imagine having a cordless phone that can make calls anywhere you can find a wireless network. That's what the upcoming UTStarcom F1000 phone...

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Imagine having a cordless phone that can make calls anywhere you can find a wireless network.

That’s what the upcoming UTStarcom F1000 phone promises — a Wi-Fi phone connection you can take with you.

Of course, many consumers may say they already have such a phone: They call it a “cellphone,” and it can make calls just about anywhere, with no need to be near a Wi-Fi hotspot like the UTStarcom.

But the advantage to the UTStarcom and other Wi-Fi phones is that they use Voice over Internet Protocol technology. VoIP service usually costs a lot less per month than cellular or traditional phone service.

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For example, Vonage, which plans to sell the UTStarcom beginning this month, offers unlimited local and long-distance calls to the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico for $24.99 a month. The phone will sell for $100, with in-store $50 rebates at major electronics stores.

With a Wi-Fi phone and VoIP service, you can go anywhere you can find a Wi-Fi connection and make calls at no extra cost, assuming the Wi-Fi hotspot doesn’t charge. You can go to New York or Seattle and still make calls over the Internet with your home number.

A cellphone can do that, but a user usually burns minutes for a call. A traditional line at home may give you unlimited local or long-distance calls, but you can’t take it with you.

This all assumes that a Wi-Fi phone works. Happily, the UTStarcom does, seamlessly.

I set aside about three hours one afternoon to program the Wi-Fi phone to get onto the Internet. But the extent of my work was this: I turned it on.

The device began searching for a wireless Internet connection, found mine (which, I blush to admit, was unsecured) and had me up and running within two minutes, complete with the 310 area code that Vonage had programmed into the handset. No software for my computer, no settings to be entered in the phone, no hassle.

If you’re wise, you have your Wi-Fi setup better-protected than I did. If you’ve got a firewall, you’ll have to go into the software on the phone and enter settings that will let you onto your hotspot.

During a test two weeks ago of RedMoon Broadband’s Wi-Fi network in Addison, Texas, I brought along my UTStarcom to see how it worked in the real world. A number of times, it found unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and suddenly I could make calls (not that I advocate trespassing on other people’s networks).

The quality of calls was not bad, although not as clear as on a hard-wired land line. The recipients of my call described the sound as comparable to the average cellular call.

Motorola SD4500 Home Communications System

Motorola

www.motorola.com

$90

This Motorola cordless phone can help you multitask.

Using the system’s wireless camera and intercom module, you can talk on its cordless phone while keeping an eye on another room via the phone’s color screen. Plus, while your cellphone is charging in the system’s dock, you can access and dial numbers stored in the cellphone through the system’s cordless landline phone.

The mix-and-match system includes a $90 digital cordless phone with an answering machine and keypad base, an $80 cordless video-audio expansion handset, a $100 cellphone dock and an $80 wireless camera/intercom module.

— Deborah Porterfield

Gannett News Service