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Tips on Modems and Phone Lines

Here are some tips if you are experiencing problems with your modem and phone line.

Tips on modem or phone line problems

  • Some modems can't even dial out on bad phone lines, sometimes adding 3 or 4 commas before the number to dial really helps.
  • If your phone line has call waiting and you're using a modem to connect to the Internet, then you must turn off call waiting (#43#=OFF) and (*43#=ON). If you need more information about how to turn off call waiting, contact your phone company.
  • If you're dialing your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from a business that requires a "9" for an outside phone line, you must add a "9" prefix to your dial-in string (the phone number you dial to connect to your ISP). To change the dial-in string, use the set-up dialog box provided by your ISP. If you need more information about modifying your dial-in string, contact your ISP.

Tips on modem problems

  • Verify that your modem is plugged in and turned on.
  • Check that your modem's phone cord is securely inserted at both ends of the connection.
  • If you have an external modem, check that the phone line is securely plugged into the proper modem socket.
  • If you have an internal modem, check that the phone line is securely plugged into your computer's modem socket.
  • Check that you are using the correct dial-in string to contact your ISP.
  • If you're dialing your ISP from a business that requires a "9" for an outside phone line, you must add a "9" prefix to your dial-in string. To change the dial-in string, use the set-up dialog box provided by your ISP. If you need more information about modifying your dial-in string, contact your ISP.
  • Your computer's ability to use its modem port may be hampered if you are running telephony or communications software (for example, fax software). If you're using such software, try the following.
    1. Close the telephony or communications software.
    2. Move the telephony or communications software from the Startup program group to another Windows group.
    3. Restart your computer and then reconnect to the Internet.
  • Use the call logging option to obtain more information about your modem calls made over the past month.

Tips on busy signals

Use call logging to track the number of busy signals your modem encountered over the past month. Busy signals can be caused:
  • by the phone company. For example, if a customer encounters a "fast" busy this indicates a problem with the phone company's equipment. If a customer has call waiting and dials *40 before the phone number, they can also get a busy signal if the phone company's equipment is not behaving properly. Sometimes adding 4 commas before the number to dial can reall help a lot. Adding commas (each comma is half a second) gives the poor old exchange time to get the number dialed.
  • by your ISP's inability to handle customer demand. For example, if your ISP does not have enough modems in their dial-in modem bank, your modem will routinely encounter busy signals.
your ISP's inability to handle customer demand. For example, if your ISP does not have enough modems in their dial-in modem bank, your modem will routinely encounter busy signals.

Before switching to another ISP, contact your current ISP and ask them the following questions:

  1. Do you offer a premium service with call availability guarantee? For an additional fee?
  2. How many users are there currently in your geographical area?
  3. How many dial-in phone numbers are there for your geographical area?
  4. What is the ratio of users to dial-in numbers?

When evaluating the ratio of users to dial-in phone numbers, use the following guidelines. ISPs should have no more than 15 to 20 users per dial-in phone number in an area. If an ISP has more than 20 users per dial-in phone number, it usually means you'll routinely get a busy signal. Before switching to another ISP, ask the prospective ISP these same questions.

Tips on unanswered calls

If you have dialed your ISP and your call rings endlessly, here is some information that could help:
  • Unanswered calls are usually caused by your phone company, which provides the dial-in lines, and not your ISP.
  • Most ISPs use trunk hunting and groups of dial-in lines called hunt groups. Trunk hunting is a method used to switch incoming calls to the next consecutive or available number in a hunt group. If the first number called is busy or unavailable, the call should be automatically switched to the next number in the hunt group.
  • Problems related to hunt groups are difficult to detect and troubleshoot. Consequently, to protect yourself against such problems, ask your ISP for a list of your hunt group's individual phone numbers. If you have this list of phone numbers, you can dial any of these direct phone numbers to connect to your ISP rather than dialing the hunt group's dial-in string.
  • Use the call log to obtain more information about your past month's modem calls, including the "no-answer condition."

Tips on dropped connections

When you're connected to the Internet and unexpectedly disconnected, this is called a "dropped connection." The following information may help you deal with this situation:
  • The cause for dropped connections are difficult to pinpoint and fix.
  • Make sure you have only ONE phone device (the modem) plugged in to the line. Other telephones especially new ones steal a little bit of power from the phone line to keep fast dial and redial numbers in memory, IF you get disconnected regularly say every 7, 14, 21 minutes, this is what the problem will be.
  • If you're experiencing dropped connections, you may want to contact your phone company. It is recommended that you only contact your phone company about chronic problems. This, in turn, will enable them to focus on solving chronic problems that plague your online connections.

Tips on modem connection rates

  • Most modems sold today sense and adapt to the quality of the phone line. For example, a 28.8 kbps modem adapts to the quality of the phone line. Because of this adaptive behavior, the modem's speed can fluctuate between 19.2 kbps and 28.8 kbps. To make things worse some modems tell you the speed between your computer and your modem, not very useful, what is better is the speed between your modem and the remote modem. The solution is to add ATSW2 to the extra settings panel. Some modems don't need you to do this, others do.
  • ALL newer 56kbps modems can talk a kind of "language" called either 56kFlex or V90. It is possible that your modem may not be V90. Fortunately ALL modems can have their internal language changed to speak V90 (the internationally recognised standard now since September 1998) by a simple download from the manufacturers website. In all cases this has cured the mysterious disconnections that occur at completely random times. The ISP believes you hung up but the message that comes on your screen says "you were disconnected from XYZ". It's worth trying...true!
  • Because the average phone line was not originally designed to transfer data, such techniques as data compression are used to increase the amount of data that can be transferred over phone lines. If your modem is connected at a speed greater than 9.6kbps the modem connection speed may be faster than 9.6 kbps at certain times.
  • Make sure you have only ONE phone device (the modem) plugged in to the line. Other telephones especially new ones steal a little bit of power from the phone line to keep fast dial and redial numbers in memory, IF you get disconnected regularly say every 7, 14, 21 minutes, this is what the problem will be.
  • Use modem properties and set your modem to say (28800bps), sometimes slowing down the connect rate can actually speed up the connection. Try this especially if you have trouble with a 56kbps modem. It can show up incompatibilities with protocols etc.
  • The various brands and models of modems vary significantly in their ability to adapt to poor-quality phone lines and to the wide range of modems used by ISPs. For more information about a specific modem, check for newsgroups that discuss modems (for example, the UseNet newsgroup named comp.dcom.modems).