Base Unit / Systems with Cellular (Wireless) Connection | 101 Guide

Base units can be divided into two major categories, based on the type of the connection they use – landline and cellular (wireless). A base unit with cellular (wireless) connection is the one that uses cellular network to establish the connection between the base unit and the call center in the cases of emergency.

Base unit is the central part of any medical alert system. When a user presses a help button, a signal is sent to the base unit and the call is made. The call center operator on the other side of the line responds and helps the user in trouble. Base units can have different designs, depending on the company. A user needs to install the base unit and set it up by following the instructions that came with the package. In most cases, a user installs the system on his own. Some companies though require installations fees, and in those cases a trained technician installs the system for the customer.

The base unit that uses a cellular connection can be used anywhere where there is cellular network coverage from the chosen service provider. When signing a contract with a medical alert company, there is often an activation fee for cellular based systems. This is because the activation fee often covers a new cellular line that is going to be used exclusively for medical alert services.



A major benefit of a cellular based system is the flexibility. A user can easily move from one home to another. Also, cellular networks often cover areas where there is no possibility to install a traditional landline. Base stations that use cellular connection are sometimes a bit easier to install in comparison to those which use the landline as they only require a user to plug in the base station to the power outlet. Everything else should already be setup, so the process is literally plug and play.

If you do not have a landline or you prefer to use a dedicated phone line for medical alert system, going for one of the cellular base stations is the solution. Check which cellular network is used (most common among medical alert systems are AT&T and T-Mobile), and double check the network coverage in your area.

Signing up for a medical alert system and setting up a cellular base station is really easy as you only need to plug it in the power outlet for full functionality. No additional cables or complicated installation instructions are involved in most of the cases.



The main drawbacks of cellular based systems are costs. Cellular based systems are more expensive in comparison to landline ones. Also, there are activation costs (usually around $99) that user needs to pay when getting the system. This can get problematic if the user is only intending to test a certain system, to see if it suits his personal needs.



Types of Systems with Cellular Connection

There are two types of systems with cellular connection:


  • Stationary systems (in home & yard), which are designed to work in home and in its vicinity.




Click here to learn more about mobile systems »


1. Stationary Units (in home & yard)


Stationary Base Unit | Type #1


This type of base of wireless stationary base unit is very popular among the companies offering medical alert service. The device is white and it consists of centrally located two-way speaker which is used for the communication with the call center agent, as well as a small screen located below the speaker.

The screen displays date and time, the temperature, and other useful information. There are two large buttons on each side of the screen, which are usually red (emergency button) and blue (reset button).

Backup Battery & Optimal Range – The base unit contains 30-hour battery and the range is approximately 600 feet from the base station.

The unit does not support two-way communication pendants, except in the cases when a special mobile device is offered as part of the package. The base unit does not require a landline to work, instead it works by connecting to AT&T’s cellular network.

Below are the companies and plans which offer this type of unit

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Stationary Base Unit | Type #2


This type of base station with wireless connection consists of a white base unit, with a small antenna. The two-way communication speaker takes up most of the space on the device. The help button, placed on the right side of the device, is large and colored differently depending on the company. The unit works by connecting to AT&T cellular network.

Backup Battery & Optimal Range – The unit has a battery, but its life depends on the company, as many companies on the market use the same device, but they install different batteries that range between 32 and 80 hours of operating time. The same goes with the range of the base unit, which is between 350 and 1000 feet.

Only alert button is supported by this type of base unit, with no possibility of integrating two-way communication pendant.

Below are the companies and plans which offer this type of unit

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Stationary Base Unit | Type #3


Specs – This is a base station hardware offered by LifeFone company. The unit is white with a big button located centrally. The button is used for placing an emergency call. There is Braille labeling on for vision impaired accessibility. There is a speakerphone on the face of the unit, with a built in microphone for two-way voice communication with the call center agents.

Optimal Range – The range of this base station is up to 1300 in any direction. This presents a long range rating and a help button should work anywhere inside the home and in the area surrounding it (a garden, neighbors’ home if it is close, etc.).

Backup Battery – The hardware comes with a 32-hour backup battery that ensures functionality even in a case of a complete power failure.

Installation – The user needs to install the device and connect it to the power using the supplied power adapter. This base unit has a built in temperature monitor that can detect fire.

Companies which use the same type of base unit (Click on each image for details)

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Stationary Base Unit | Type #4


Available in black and brown, this type of base unit is not one of the most popular on the market. The two-way speaker is located on the left side of the device, below which there is a help button (usually red or orange). The device also has a large reset button, which is most often green. Cellular connection is used with this device, including AT&T’s 3G and T-Mobile cellular networks.

Backup Battery & Optimal Range – The battery life significantly varies between the companies, so it ranges between 24 and 72 hours. The device is intended for indoor use, so the range is not as impressive, usually around 400 feet. There is no indication when the user is out of the range of the device.

Only alert button is supported.

Below are the companies and plans which offer this type of unit


Stationary Base Unit | Type #5


Unlike other base units, where the speaker and the buttons take up most of the front surface, this device has the speaker, the reset and the help button located in the center of the device. The reset button is green, while help button is red and it is the most prominent one on the device, allowing users to easily press it in cases of an emergency. The unit also features a small antenna.

Backup Battery & Optimal Range – The range of the unit is 390 feet, and the battery that comes with the unit is a 30-hour battery.

The unit works by connecting to a T-Mobile cellular network. There is no possibility to purchase a two-way communication pendant with the plan that comes with this type of base unit, as only regular alert help button is supported.

Below are the companies and plans which offer this type of unit


Stationary Base Unit | Type #6


While most medical companies go for a simple version of the base station device, in order to make them user-friendly, especially for the elderly who might not be too skillful with new technologies, this type of device features a touch screen interface. The touch screen is on the right side of the device, and it allows users to communicate with the call center, display weather information, etc.

The speaker is on the left side, next to the screen. The unit works by connecting to a cellular network, which means users do not need to have a landline.

Backup Battery & Optimal Range – The range of the base unit is not specified by the company. The device features a 24-hour battery.

There is no possibility for a two-way communication pendant.

Below are the companies and plans which offer this type of unit



2. Mobile units\base (on-the-go)

Unlike stationary units, mobile units are completely flexible solutions, as the user can take them on the go.

This means that the user can feel completely safe, as the device is with him all the time, allowing him to establish the connection with the call center from any location. The range is only limited by cellular network signal strength. Most of the mobile systems also have GPS tracking feature and/or two-way communication feature.



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