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What is a Landline?

A signal on a landline phone tends to be clearer than that with cell phones.
The term "landline" is generally used to describe a home telephone connected to physical wiring.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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A landline is a physical connection between two telecommunications devices. The term is most frequently used to refer to a telephone, differentiating it from a wireless phone, which transmits a signal through a series of relay towers. Wireless phones have outstripped landlines in popularity in many nations, but there are some unique uses for a landline phone which will probably keep the technology from vanishing altogether.

The primary disadvantage of a landline phone is that it must be connected to physical wiring in order to work. The phone is plugged into a phone jack in the wall in order to connect with the larger system of cables and relays controlled by the telephone company. Signals sent to and from the phone are passed through these cables, although some phone companies also make use of relay towers to transmit data.

The fact that signals are transmitted through physical cabling also has the potential to make a landline more secure. Unless someone has access to the cables, and is able to pick out the signal from a unique phone, conversations and data sent over a landline will be private. The data can be further secured through encryption, as is the case with phones used by senior government officials and intelligence officers. Consumers may have noticed that credit card companies ask customers to call from a “home phone,” meaning a landline, in order to ensure that the data exchanged with the credit card company remains safe.

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The signal on a landline also tends to be more clear than a wireless phone. In areas where wireless service is poor or nonexistent, many people prefer to use landline phones. In some countries, a landline is still considered the main phone line for a house or business, and people may exchange multiple phone numbers with each other to facilitate communication. People who experience patchy mobile service may tell people to call back “on a landline” to continue a conversation.

There are drawbacks to having a landline. The need to physically connect it to a cable makes it far less versatile than a mobile phone, for example. In addition, the wiring which connects landline phones must be installed and maintained. In some countries, poverty drives people to cannibalize phone lines for the valuable metals they contain, leading to increased expenses for telecommunications companies. For this reason, some of these companies have chosen to bulk up their wireless networks so that citizens can remain in communication with each other. In many parts of Africa, for example, no landline service is available due to the expense of physical wiring, but mobile phones are readily available.

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Discuss this Article

fergi65
Post 15

I just recently cancelled my landline with ATT after 30 years. I was offered a tempting deal on a landline with my cell phone company. Since the beginning, service has been horrible, to say the least. If I walk away from the base, people can't hear me, but if I'm in close range to it, they can't hear me either. I went to send a fax, and realized I couldn't. There is no wall connection. Is this a true landline? I have signed a 2 year agreement for something that I literally can't use.

anon332613
Post 13

I have a question about the landline network. I use DSL for Internet connection and my ISP provides only 1.5 Mbsps. I did some research and found out that the farther away my phone line is from the phone central office, the slower the Internet speed. So my question is if I change my ISP, does it mean that phone central office location will be different or the same? Can the phone cable that goes from my house be switched to another phone CO?

anon161467
Post 12

somebody asked a question if they wire a phone directly to jack would it affect dsl. It would because the phone needs to be filtered. however, the dsl can be filtered at the back of the house or where line comes into home, leaving a straight dsl signal to the computer. Call your local phone company. a dsl tech should be able to do this.

anon100961
Post 10

question - i have a question, i have cell phone and landline phone, and i am thinking about canceling the landline phone. if something happens, can i call 911 from my cell phone?

answer - yes, you can call 911 from your cell, although you will probably have to tell the emergency personnel the address you are calling from so they can come and help you, unlike a landline, which provides this info automatically -- not all cell phones do.

there is a service being rolled out called e911 that will provide gps coordinates with your call, but not all cell phones have this gps chip and some providers triangulate from the cell towers you are calling from instead of pulling the gps info from the phone. so it is best to assume you will need to tell them where you are until e911 is completely rolled out.

as a side note, VOIP doesn't provide 911 address info either, unless you call your VOIP provider and let them know what address to assign to your VOIP access device. and if you take your VOIP access device to another location after assigning an address to it, it will still show the address you gave your provider initially as the address you are calling from when you call 911, even though you aren't really there.

anon100895
Post 9

"anon43641 - Can I connect a 30 year old wall mount telephone by hardwiring it as they did 30 years ago? I had someone look at it and he said he can do it, but the phone doesn't have a jack plug, so we would have to wire it within the wall. Do you know if our DSL filter will interfere with this plan? Thanks!"

I don't think you need to wire it into the wall. you are talking about one of the phones that has the 4 prong connector on it, correct? i am pretty sure they make adapters that will convert that four prong round plug to the standard rj-11 jack that they use today. As a matter of fact i did an online search and saw a few, but they are getting harder to find. Alternatively you could buy a phone cord with the rj 11 jacks on it at target (or maybe you have a spare from a modem you bought in the past?), cut one of the ends off it so that you can get to and separate the four wires and then cut the connector off the old phone and match the wires up by color (red green yellow black).

As for the dsl filter, yes, wiring it directly into the wires in your wall would mess with your dsl because you will need to install a filter on this phone too, or else your phone will cause the dsl to shut down (phone takes precedence over dsl signal).

it will be just like any other phone, so you need to put a filter on it. so i recommend using one of the two methods to put an rj-11 jack on the old phone so you can put a filter between it and your wall wiring. good luck.

anon84084
Post 8

i have a question, i have cell phone and landline phone, and i am thinking about canceling the landline phone. if something happens, can i call 911 from my cell phone?

anon57513
Post 7

this is cool!

anon43641
Post 6

Can I connect a 30 year old wall mount telephone by hardwiring it as they did 30 years ago? I had someone look at it and he said he can do it, but the phone doesn't have a jack plug, so we would have to wire it within the wall. Do you know if our DSL filter will interfere with this plan? Thanks!

anon42745
Post 5

This article helped me in deciding which telephone to purchase for my house. The model I liked the best mentioned that it was a good land line phone, but I was not sure if it would work with my FIOS service package. Thanks.

somerset
Post 4

annon 17693 - That's true, a blackberry can replace the need for a fax. But, not everyone has a blackberry. Also, there are online alternatives to fax machines, but for either alternative, you'll need a scanner.

anon17693
Post 3

If you need to fax why not just scan the document and send it to your Blackberry?

anon13713
Post 2

This article really helped me with a school assignment about telecommunication and phone connections.

somerset
Post 1

Cell phones are so convenient, but landline phones have their place. If you have a fax machine for example you need landline connection to transmit your fax.

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