January 24, 2016

Best Communications For Fixed Positions

In light of recent events, I was thinking about the best communications solution for a fixed position, such as a homestead.  My first choice would be these:


This is a US military-issue TA-312 field phone.  It uses two "D" cells that last forever.  You could also get these:


This is a US TA-1 Sound-Powered Field Phone.  Less range, but no batteries needed.

Both of these items are available online from various surplus dealers.  Fair Radio has TA-312s for $200 each, and they are considered one of the more expensive dealers.  I bought a couple Czech field phones at an army/navy store a couple years back and paid $40 each for them. The US and European field phones (the old analog ones) will all talk with and signal each other.

For short-range, on-site, radio comms that will keep the average hobbyist from intercepting your signal, go with Motorola DTR series handhelds.


$230 each on Amazon.  They use old-school Nextel accessories and have all the neat surveillance-type earbud microphones available for them.  Very simple to use. Easier than a Baofeng.  They run digital frequency hopping on 902-928 MHz. and hide among all the SCADAs and other spread spectrum stuff there very well.  Maximum range is an honest 2 miles.  Unless you're in the Berkshires where they get about a quarter mile.  Perfect radio for the homstead.  Motorola puts the indoor range at 350,000 square feet, or a little more than 8 acres.  Outdoors in the open they go much farther. Milspec-810 rugged.  19 hours on a single battery charge, 12v DC adapters available.

Finally, they operate on a license-free band, so no ham ticket is needed.


If you needed to discretely communicate around your farm or homestead with a little more security than ham radio, MURS, FRS, or GMRS, these items would be my recommendation.


  1. ALCON: WD wire and phones can be had from eBay for a lot less. best price I got a TA1 was for around $50 and it was like new. got wire as well on eBay for $75 for a mile after I got some from Fair for an ungodly price. then there is a guy in TX with phones. I was a 36K prior to going 12C.

  2. YES field phones are the best. They cannot be jammed, tracked or "hacked". : BUT: They are heavy as hell. Take LARGE numbers of "D" cell batteries to run.(US PHONES) Require a "switch board" for any "net" that's not a "party line" , and lets not forget that one hundred pound roll of commo wire that all us "old timers" remember with horror. I'm a "cold war" vet so unlike most of y'all under 50 I've seen how many men it takes to hump enough "wire" gear to form a company net. Just to put a LP, CP and TOC net up around an ordinary "farm" (big enough to feed 20 people) in a "grid down", or a platoon size WW2 fixed DP, takes at minimum 10 phones, five miles of wire, and several hundred pounds of batteries. :AND: Three to five trained and motivated guys to run the wire and fix it when it breaks.( If you don't burry the wire it gets cut or broken far more than you'd think it would). It's a great idea. I got three myself to bring to the party, along with a spool of wire. But you need training and time to set up a net and run it. . P.S. NOT ALL FIELD PHONES ARE COMPATABLE. MANY OF THE PHONES OFFERED ON THE INTERNET TAKE BATTERIES THAT ARE NO LONGER MANUFACTURED AND HAVEN'T BEEN FOR FIFTY YEARS (most European non NATO comms gear) , AND CANNOT BE MADE TO WORK WITHOUT A LOT OF MODIFICATION!!!!!! Fifty bucks for a phone isn't cheap when it take 200 bucks to make it work.

  3. Best comms comment out there from someone who knows. Hardwire is a much overlooked asset. Low tech wireless is very overlooked by the high tech enemies who scan.

  4. Field phones are intended for fixed installations, although the TA-1 phones require no batteries and are light enough.

    TA-312 and other phones can be run in a common battery configuration, and I suspect an article on same will appear in a future issue of Signal-3.

  5. My German field phones are from the 1980's, in excellent condition, and use common D cells. There is an auxiliary cable for an obsolete European battery, but it's not needed (just throw it away so you don't feel the need to look for hundreds of pounds of obsolete batteries). It is NATO compatible, can't say the same for some Combloc phones.
    Price, quality and compatibility make it a first choice in surplus buys, US phones are way overpriced when compared to these, they do the same thing at a quarter of the price (2/$50).

  6. I built a couple of these units and buried fiber between the outbuildings. Fiber doesnt give of EM that I have found in my limited knowledge.


  7. The waveform from the DTR is horizontal in the waterfall...

    ...that should tell you everything you need to know about them...

  8. It seems to me that what you are describing is not telephones but rather intercoms. They are available quite cheaply.


  9. I'm talking about military surplus ruggedized local battery phone systems, and short-range LPI radios for homestead/ranch/retreat use.

    Consumer-grade intercoms have the following issues:

    1. May not be rugged enough to handle the rigors of rough usage.
    2. May require AC power as many transmit via carrier current using AC power lines as an "antenna".
    3. The true wireless ones may be easily intercepted by common SIGINT equipment.

    Field phones and Motorola DTRs address these issues.

  10. 1. Those fiber intercoms are advertised as having a 220 yard range. Field phones have a range measured in miles.
    2. Fiber is more expensive than wire, and harder for the average person to acquire in quantity.
    3. Fiber needs expensive specialized equipment to splice when it breaks. All you need for field wire is a 2-blade TL-29 style electricians knife and a pair of linemans pliers.
    4. Field phones will work over any metallic conductor pair, or even a single pair with an earth ground return, such as the top strand of a fence line.


    While I encourage people to experiment with technology if so inclined, what's needed for the purposes of this blog is something the average person can acquire, deploy, and maintain. Field phones fit that criteria.

  11. Are there any old WW2 EE8 army field phones around anymore? They run on 2 "D" cells and can be local battery or common battery.

  12. I believe the military surplus place in Idaho Falls, ID has some.

  13. I offer for your consideration the Motorola i355 PTT cell phones. Military grade construction. They use a similar, if not the same, frequency hopping routine. The range is about two miles. Available on eBay for around $30 each and $5 for a SIM card. Replace the antenna with a Motorola whip ($15) P/N NNTN7510A and you have a rugged semi-secure transceiver for $50.

    1. Good idea if you can get them. They use iDEN modulation and FHSS on 902-928 MHz. just like the DTR and DLR, but are not compatible.

      I try to avoid recommending discontinued consumer electronics to beginners because availability can be an issue. But, if you happened to have a fleet of old Moto i355 Nextel phones laying around...

      There's a discussion about these and various hints/kinks at http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=193571/showthread.php?t=193571. YMMV.