New life for obsolete Nextel phones
Sprint has killied the Nextel Motorola iDEN network in the United States. That’s too bad, but if you have a pair of Nextel phones you can turn them into very good two way radios that will function even without the cell phone network.
Many, if not all newer Motorola Nextel phones have the “off network mode” also known as MOTO Talk which turn the phones into walkie-talkies completely independent of the phone provider’s network. The radios don’t use encryption, although the privacy settings allow users to communicate with select private groups and to individual units.
A SIM card is mandatory, although network service is not. I suspect any SIM card will do the trick. Without one the phone just hangs up at a screen that ask to insert a SIM card.
I tested a pair of Motorola i576 phones in an urban low-rise environment with hills and natural and man made obstacles occluding the line of sight. One unit was stationary and another was in a moving vehicle. I was able to transmit and receive completely clear voice up to one mile (1.5km) distance.
It is reasonable to expect that in a line of sight applications the range would be far greater. The range may also depend on the model of the phone.
To enable the off network mode simply go to the phone menu, turn the Direct Talk on and make sure the channel selection and privacy codes are matched on all the units you intend to use.
When the Nextel network is finally shut down in 2013, all these iDEN phones will flood eBay and there will be a lot bargains out there.