Troubleshooting: Noise on the Line
Noise on The Line
One of the irritating telephone scenarios that we have all suffered; noise on the phone line that interrupts and distracts the telephone call. For some businesses, it can affect the level of support they can provide their clients, which in turn frustrates both parties.
Here’s a list of possible causes and symptoms you may experience. This includes intermittent nose; the hardest of all scenarios to identify and resolve.
Check the Curly Cord
Sometimes called a coiled cord, this is the cord between your phone base and the hand-piece. The curly cord is designed for high levels of use, but they do still wear out. Over time the copper cable inside breaks, typically at the point of of connection with the glass plug. The symptoms are intermittent; building in frequency as the cable deteriorates further; isolated to just the phone with the damaged cord; and you can recreate the noise by physically moving the curly cord whilst you are on the phone. Try swap over the curly cord with a working telephone and see if the fault follows the cord.
You can minimise the chances of this cord damage by keeping your curly cord in good condition, perhaps using a cord detangler. If your curly cord is creating noise, replace it, but speak with your telephone maintainer because not all telephone systems have the same pin connection order. Buy in bulk and keep a bag of them in reserve.
Inspect Your Internal Office Cabling
Copper deteriorates slowly as electricity passes though it (or much faster if you immerse it in salt water, which was quite an embarrassment on the first transoceanic communication cable). An uncertified brand of cabling may not have the correct cable twist or shielding required; poor installation may have communication cables too close to power cables; and poor termination of the cable may have the shielding or twist stripped back beyond design tolerance. Cables are commonly run in ducting, a favoured highway for rodents. All of these can cause noise on the line.
These causes may be intermittent or constant. Try plugging the handset directly into the port on the telephone system, with a new phone lead (i.e. bypass the building cabling). If the noise has gone then it’s likely to be either the building cabling or the phone lead.
All modern building cabling should be covered by a 25 year warranty from the installation company. Cable testing technology is so accurate that the testing devices will advise the distance down a cable that a problem exists, specifically to save time investigating the entire cable length for a fault. If your cabling installation company cannot provide a 25 year warranty, it is worth you taking the time to understand why.
Could it be the Telephone System?
The telephone system itself can generate noise on the line. One such example is from static electricity build up, perhaps from a telephone system that is not earthed correctly. This could manifest itself in a single extension, a selection, or all extensions with noise on the line. If an extension still has noise on the line when plugged directly into the telephone system, bypassing building cabling, then the fault is likely to be either within the telephone system or the telephone lines.
Telephone system types are varied and the architecture is regularly refreshed, so leave the repair to your maintainer. You could cause further damage to the system just by touching the components, either from simply transferring static, or becoming a circuit jumper to the National Grid (not recommended).
It May Be the Telephone Lines
The telephone line outside your building, forming the UK’s PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), is traditionally maintained by Openreach. As voice transmission moves into the 21st century network, Openreach are joined by other carriers providing IP based networks – TalkTalk and Virgin for example. Provision and suitability of this network is regulated by Ofcom. With around 33 million landlines across the UK, that takes some looking after. So you can imagine (and are no doubt aware) that faults do occur.
Access to the PSTN for fault diagnosis and repair is reserved for the carriers, so your telecoms provider can only report suspected faults to the carriers and pro-actively seek updates. As a subscriber you cannot speak directly with the carriers; you must go through a sales partner such as BT Local Business (sales franchises, nothing to do with Openreach) or any other reseller (such as Nexus IP).
Unfortunately, intermittent noise on the PSTN needs some determination to resolve; the carrier will investigate but Murphy’s Law dictates that the noise will not be present when they attend the premises. If a network check doesn’t provide evidence of faulty equipment then the carrier will presume the issue is with your telephone system or internal cabling, and charge you for the call out. It can take multiple visits and escalations to find the true cause.
The recommendation here is to rule out all other potential causes before pursuing the carrier. Check the curly cords, patch leads, line cords, telephone system and internal cabling. It can be reported to the line provider simultaneously for remote diagnostics at no cost; sometimes a carrier line check in itself can clear an issue. Carrier call outs can be arranged and cancelled without charge.
The best advice is find a telephone maintainer who will also provide your telephone lines, and consider the same maintainer to provide warranty on your building cabling. By taking responsibility for the end to end service, the maintainer would need to bear the carrier call out charges if they make an incorrect diagnosis. Make sure the maintainer has a relationship with you in order to appreciate trends on intermittent and recurring issues. Ensure they can deliver on your needs first, before you start discussing price.