20 February 2011

I need some advice regarding telephone interference

Our family signed up for AT&T's U-verse service, which "provides broadband internet access, TV, and phone through a fiber-to-the-node or Fiber to the Premise communications network."  We've been delighted with the television and internet access, but the phone component has an annoying complication.

When we use any of our landline phones, we can hear in the background (over the dial tone and, worse yet, over an ongoing conversation) a local radio station.  Sometimes the sound level of this interference is loud enough to interfere with normal use of the phone.

A quick Google search suggests to me that the phones are serving as antennas to pick up radio broadcasts, but I've not been able to find a solution.  Is there a way to shield the phones?  Or some type of blocking device?  Would this have to be done for each phone set, or is there a single quick-fix that could be applied?

We'd be grateful for any suggestions from readers of this blog who have experienced the same problem and have had success in coping with it.  Or from anyone with relevant knowledge about telephone technology.

Addendum March 5.  Problem solved (see comment section).


  1. If they are cordless phones for your landlines see if you can change channels or frequencies.

    If it is a corded landline and you've tested different phones it may be something that the provider will have to fix. Push them to fix it under warranty since you seem to be a new user of the service.

  2. Not trying to be snarky, but the best solution is to ditch the landline.

    Use Skype or Google Voice or Cellphone.

    Not much use for landlines anymore especially given the cost for what you get.

    1. Not trying to be snarky, but do you really not know a good reason to keep a landline? If an obvious reason seems to be missing, you may be the one missing it.

      Keep the landline.

  3. I had the same problem when I got Uverse.

    I called them and explained the problem. They sent out a team to replace the wires running from the house all the way to "the box". I don't know how far away the box is, but it involved a bucket truck and several hours of work. I paid nothing.

  4. Ok, are you hearing the actual radio station... or hearing a noise that you have figured out is coming from the radio station. Because you need a tuner to be able to hear the actual voices and music, that's why people can't really hear music through their fillings or whatever.

    There are 2 different things that can cut down on noise in telephone lines. In the DSL days, there was a filter that had to be placed where each handset was, it plugged inline before the phone. Secondly, there are ferrite beads that prevent EMI or RFI (radio frequency interference) from running along a conducting cable (More info about ferrite beads here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrite_bead). Examples of snap ones here: http://www.thefind.com/electronics/info-ferrite-snap

  5. DubyaD, I can hear actual talk radio interviews and rock music.

    andiscandis, that's the best news I've heard so far...

  6. this may be a touch technical but....


    have you contacted or looked on the manufacturer's web site? Or you can do a search for "RFI" or TVI".

    I suspect it is the suppliers responsibility to correct the problem. Depends on the telecommunications legislation in your country.

  7. my parents had the same problem on their landline phone when I was a kid. It turned out that we had TOO MANY PHONES plugged in, and that by unplugging 2 of them and replacing them with those wireless satellite phones the problem was solved. FYI, those phones were quite expensive in the late 90s and cost about $30 for a base and $20/ satellite at Target today.

  8. This type of interference used to be common when a customer or line passed close to a strong AM radio station. Describe your interference problem to your carrier and let them solve the problem for you. It used to involve a filter unit applied to the incoming line which provided a low impedance ground to the offending signal while allowing the audio to pass unattenuated. Don't let them charge for this service if you are a new customer and assure them that you will have the service terminated if they try. Good Luck!

  9. I expect that the radio station you are hearing is the strongest AM station in your area. It may be more than one station at once. You have a bad connection somewhere in your wiring and it is acting as a rectifier which is demodulating the radio signal just like one of the old crystal radios used to do. If the bad connection is outside of your house then AT&T will fix it for free. If it is inside then I think that they will charge you to come in and find it.

  10. Good luck with AT&T. I switched to T-Mobile at Home (which they no longer offer). I pay $10 a month for phone service, added to my cell bill. I have one phone connected to the computer, and three wireless. Excellent sound, no interference, caller and call-waiting caller ID, voice mail, all the bells and whistles.

  11. I used to do tech support for AT&T U-verse. When I would hear the words radio station and phone service I knew I would automatically have to send a technician out to fix the issue.

  12. The ability to tune in a strong AM radio station is actually really easy -- it just requires a "diode" placed between 2 long wires, and some audio amplifier. I've had this happen before just using computer speakers that were not properly plugged in.

    In your case, it clearly means a broken piece of electronics that has somehow grounded or opened enough internal components together to form a diode, and you are hearing the strong AM talk radio station.

    If it is happening on all your phones, its definitely a problem that AT&T has to fix.

  13. I had problems with my ATT landline and over several years I was told 'yes we fixed it' replacing the line to my house, repairing a break here or there, being told 'its because the lines are wet'

    finally a guy who cared about his job came to the house and set up a device that made a tone for him to listen to wherever he hooked up to it, and he went backtracking the line to the local switch, about 12,000 feet away, just under the limit for DSL.
    it took all afternoon, but in that 12k feet, he found 15 breaks, where wires were bad, poorly spliced or whatever.
    Now I have a clean signal , and no problems.

  14. I was told by a telephone company representative, in the '80s, that cheap phones are partially to blame for this problem.

    I got my hands on a '70s style phone that weighed as much as a brick and guess what?

    Problem solved.

  15. A brief followup:

    Today I spent about an hour using the online chat at AT&T. After one workaround failed, I was boosted up to "level 2"...

    Tier 2 - Have we sent a technician about this problem?

    You - Not yet.

    Tier2 - What causes this problem is that NID or the junction box which is directly outside your house there is a bridge between the internal wiring and the outside line. The internal wiring pair may not be twisted. If they are not tested and if they are going in parallel then it will act as an antenna thus the AM radio station when you are on the phone.

    You - that sounds like it would make sense

    Tier2 - one moment I will need to create an appointment

    (The technician will arrive tomorrow)

  16. Final followup/resolution -

    The AT&T technician arrived, walked over to the "gateway" device, plugged a "filter" (I forget what kind) into the phone jack - and the problem was gone.

    The whole process took 2 minutes from the time he walked in the door. He hung around for a while to answer some questions re the storage capacity of the DVR and such.

    I'm very satisfied.


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