Is your phone line faulty?
Is there noise on the line?
This page will help you understand the sources of these problems, and point you in the right direction to get your phone line fault repaired.
If your problem relates more to ADSL speed or internet drop-outs, see our dedicated page on ADSL Faults and their fixes.
Types of Phone Line Faults
There are 3 main categories of faults that can occur on your phone line. They are::
Service Outages - these can be partial or complete service outages.
Usability Issues - faults such as being able to dial out, but not being able to receive a call.
Line Quality - static and other noise fall into this category.
Faults can also be classified by their severity, i.e. how badly they affect normal use of the line. Some faults are easy to fix yourself, while other faults will require the attention of a qualified technician.
Here's a list of common faults (click on a link to learn more:
- Noise on Phone Line
- Telstra Maintenance In the Area - It Might Not Be Your Problem After All
- Static on Phone Line
- Dialling and Divert Issues
- No Dialtone
- Intermittent Problems
- Faulty Phone Jacks and Sockets
- Faulty Equipment, such as Handsets, Modems and Faxes
- Damaged Wiring
- Checking Phone Lines
Noise on Phone Line
Interference - Noise on a phone line can come from a variety of sources, most notably interference from nearby electrical and/or electromagnetic sources. In simple terms, this means that if your phone cabling runs close to electrical cabling or electrical equipment, you may hear electrical energy transferred between the cables as noise. How this works is beyond the scope of this article, but it is important to know that electrical cables can have a negative impact on nearby phone cabling.
Sometimes this interference appears as a humming sound, and sometimes the line is crackly. People sometimes refer to noisy lines as static. When the noise on the line is due to electrical interference on the telephone wiring, you'll need to contact a qualified technician to locate and repair the problem. In Australia, phone line repair must be done by a technician that is registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Other sources of noise can include:
Faulty Equipment - A faulty phone, fax or modem connected to the line (see Faulty Phone Equipment for more information).
Moisture - when phone connections get wet, they can become corroded and break down. When this happens, the corroded connection can be the source of noise and a reduction in ADSL speeds. A telephone technician can repair these corroded connections and restore line quality again.
Poor Quality Connections - your phone cabling is made up of cables that run from one part of the property to the next, such as the line from the street to your phone socket. As they pass through the property, these cables are connected and joined to form a network of cables that provide you with the phone points you need throughout the place. Where the cables are joined, these connections can be faulty or in bad shape due to age.
Of the four sources of noise listed above, poor quality connections and interference are the most common. With these types of faults, there's very little you can do to fix them. Contacting a qualified telephone technician is the best way of solving these problems, as the technician will have the knowledge and tools that are necessary to locate the problem quickly and perform a professional repair.
It Might Not Be Your Problem After All
You may experience periods of time when there's no service on your line, or the noise gets worse. This may be due to maintenance, upgrades, or repairs at the telephone exchange or somewhere else along the line, such as at connections in the streets. Construction of new houses or buildings in the area can also be source of line damage, since earthworks and other construction activities can cause damage to the network operator's cables that are buried alongside the street.
Noisy phone lines can also be attributed to the network operator (such as Telstra). When the network operator performs maintenance or repair work on the cabling in the streets, you can sometimes hear noise or other sounds on the line.
When you're experiencing problems with your phone line, your first port of call should always be to contact your network operator (such as Telstra in Australia). Ask them whether they are aware of any problems in your area, and confirm that all is well on their end. Most network operators maintain a page on their website where they list service disruptions, maintenance and outages.
When you hear noise on the line when talking to someone, there's always the possibility that the line noise is on the network between the two parties, or on the other side of the call. Ask the person you're talking to whether they're hearing noise on the line.
If the problem persists, a qualified telephone technician can test your phone line where it enters the property. This is known as the lead-in cable. Once this cable has been tested, you'll know for sure whether the source of the line problems is in your property or on the network operator side.
Static on Phone Line
Static is a term widely used to describe a crackly, noisy phone line. Static noise differs from hums and clicks, and this type of noise sometimes points us straight to a particular problem. In our experience, static noise is mostly linked to faulty equipment and poor wiring connections, whereas humming sounds are more related to electrical interference.
If your landline has static noise, start by ensuring that the handset, plugs and connections are in good shape. If you have any inline filters, check them too. If replacing these components does not solve the problem, you'll need to get in touch with a technician to repair wiring connections.
Dialing and Divert Issues
We sometimes get requests from customers where the issue is that the phone line works only in one direction. As an example, we might get a call from someone saying that the phone works when they make a call, but they can't receive a call.
In many instances, this is due to either call diverts or equipment. Answering machines and fax machines may pick up the incoming call before you get a chance to answer it. If the equipment in question is faulty, however, it may occupy the line without playing a message, or without providing a fax receive signal.
If the phone does not ring at all, there may be a divert set up. If you're unsure, contact your landline provider and ask them to check which diverts are active on your phone service. As humans we sometimes activate a divert, only to forget that we have and then wonder why the phone never rings. Another way to check is to ring your landline from a mobile phone, and check if the call is answered somewhere else.
When you have no dialtone, a useful starting point would be to determine whether the problem is on all the phone sockets in the house, only in a certain section, or only on a specific socket. This is called segmentation. Once the fault has been classified in terms of its scope like this, it will make troubleshooting easier and quicker.
If the fault is only on one socket, you can get that socket repaired quickly and efficiently, and while the technician is on site, they can take a quick look at the rest of your phone cabling and advise you of any other wiring faults or visible damage.
If the fault is in a certain section of the property (such as only the left side, or the back), it's quite likely that there's a wiring fault somewhere between a working socket and a faulty one. This could be due to damaged wiring, or sometimes a faulty central splitter in the roof. If this is the case, an ACMA certified cabler can check the wiring and make the necessary repairs.
If you have no dialtone anywhere in the property, there may be a service outage or a cabling fault. In order to find out where the problem is, contact your network operator first and enquire whether they are working on the network in the area. Most network operators maintain a publicly accessible maintenance status information page on their website, which will help you determine if your area is affected.
In some cases the lead-in cable from the street to your house could be damaged or degraded, in which case you can contact us and request a lead-in test to confirm whether this is the case.
Intermittent problems with noisy phone lines can be some of the trickiest faults to find. Our technicians have seen all the weird and wonderful sources of noise, such as lines that are noisy only under the following conditions:
- Only at night (a sensor light turning on and off caused clicking sounds on the phone line).
- On hot days (an air conditioner motor caused a humming sound on the line).
- Certain times of day (sprinklers sprayed on an exposed wiring connection, and the wet connection caused a noisy line).
When this sounds like your case, we suggest you try and establish a pattern of when the line noise appears and disappears.
Faulty Phone Jack or Faulty Phone Socket
Phone sockets, sometimes called phone jacks or phone outlets, wear out over time, just like anything else. Eventually they need to be replaced or repaired. Look closely at your telephone wall socket - is there visible damage? Do you see any discolouration or rust on the terminals? Are the terminals bent or broken in any way? If so, it's time to replace it.
It might not always be evident that a socket is faulty, even if you look inside. Some sockets are delicate enough that they become faulty on the inside even if it looks like they are in tip-top shape. The only way to know for sure is to test them by connecting your phone or modem to a different socket, or by connecting a different phone to the suspected faulty socket. If the handset or equipment works on another socket, the socket you are testing may be faulty, and will require repair.
Faulty Phone Equipment
The following types of equipment are commonly connected to phone lines:
- Alarm Systems
- Foxtel or other PayTV units
- EFTPOS Terminals
- Fax Machines
- Central Splitters/Filters
- Inline Splitters/Filters
- Surge Protection Devices
- Answering Machines
All these pieces of equipment that are connected to the phone line are mostly very reliable, but they can indeed become faulty. A faulty piece of equipment can cause the phone line to become completely inoperable (most people refer to this as a "dead" line). They can also cause varying types and degrees of noise on the line.
Even if you have only a single phone connected that you're aware of, there might be splitter or other fixed wiring component that is faulty and needs to be checked or tested by a phone technician.
If you have more than one telephone handset, you can check them by disconnecting all but one from the wall socket, and see which one causes the line noise when it's connected. The same applies for fax machines, modems and inline-splitters. This is sometimes called an isolation test.
If you have an alarm system, it may come as a surprise that we've found many alarm systems that are still connected to the phone line (e.g. connected by a previous owner), but are not in use and not monitored. These alarm systems sometimes cause interference and noise problems on the line, especially when they're old or have not been maintained.
If you have an old handset, it may just be that it's time to replace it. As telephone handsets age, their components start to near the end of their expected lifetime, and begin to malfunction. Joints in the PC boards dry out, capacitors leak their dielectric and plugs and sockets wear out. Simply replacing an old handset with a new one can be a quick and easy solution to your problem.
Have you checked the cord and plug? We've had many customers call us for repair service, only to discover that the cord that runs between the handset (or modem/fax) and the wall socket is faulty. You can buy these cords from several retail stores, and if you ask around (e.g. friends and family), you'll realise many people have a spare one lying around.
If you or your partner have been doing a bit of (creative) gardening, removed trees or done some landscaping, the underground telephone wiring may have been damaged inadvertently. Most customers are surprised to learn that the underground phone cable runs where they didn't expect it to be, and sometimes never even know that they've damaged it with their domestic activities. If you've lost phone service altogether after spending some time working in the garden - this may be the cause.
Business and retail customers sometimes have their lines damaged by other tenants in the building, by other trades and services performing work in the area, or accidentally by employees.
In addition to the above, rodents and other creatures sometimes find a tasty meal in your cabling - only to leave you without a phone line. But sometimes the cause is less obscure, and the fault is simply a connection broken down by many years of exposure to the sun and weather.
Checking Phone Lines
Before calling a technician, you can perform a number of checks yourself. These include swopping out handsets and modems, or moving them to a different socket. You can also check for visible damage to cables and sockets, and have a look at your cords and plugs to confirm they're all in good condition.
When the problem involves the fixed wiring, such phone wiring must be repaired by a qualified ACMA technician. Telephone technicians have access to several types of test equipment that make fault finding quick and efficient, saving you the time and frustration of trying to find out where the problem with your phone line originates.