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Phone Line Identification

Identifying a phone line

The humble phone line has had many different changes since its inception into Australia. We have tried to list the most common ones to help people identify them if found during renovating. When in doubt, treat every phone line as alive. This may avoid costly repairs.

If required, Phoneworks can send out an experienced telecommunication technician to identify and/or repair the cable!

External Phone Line cables

1. Armored Cable

Old phone lines encased with wire are referred to as "Armored Cables".

Previously installed in homes and small business, the armored phone line was manufactured to withstand damage caused by unsuspecting owners & trades people.

As in this picture, the centre of the cable consisted of the phone line as a single pair of copper wires.

These wires were individually wrapped with orange paper to insulate against shorting.

Next, the pair of wires was wrapped with pink paper, again used as an insulator, followed by a lead metal sheath to protect the wires from moisture.

A third layer of paper coated with black bitumen was added to protect the lead sheath from corroding.

Finally a heavy duty wire casing was added to protect the soft lead sheath from damage.  

This protection was very effective but no doubt an expensive awkward process to manufacture and join.

Armoured cable

2. Polyethylene Sheath cables

These black plastic sheath cables are made with UV inhibitors and are the only type of phone line cable that should be used outside a building.

The UV inhibitors prevent the cable from deteriorating and eventually causing faults.

These phone lines are normally used to feed a building from the telephone network or where a phone line extension needs to been installed externally and exposed to sun light.

Modern polyethylene sheath phone line cables are filled with a type of jelly or grease to stop moisture travelling up the cable in case of exposure to water.

Older polyethylene sheath phone cables were made without the inclusion of this type of grease

Early Polyethylene Sheath cable

Grease filled 2 pair cable

3. Hard Jacket cables

Some external phone line cables are made with an additional external PVC layer to protect them from being damaged by ants and termites.

This cable is designed to be dropped into an open trench without a conduit.

Hard jacket cables are cheaper to install over long distances than pipe and are therefore better suited to rural installations.

Note! Phoneworks does not recommend this type of installation on properties where the installation distances are less than 300 meters due to the costs and problems associated with repairs if the phone line is ever damaged.

Internal Phone Line cables

1. Lead Cable

This phone line consisted of two copper wires which were insulated by cotton or paper.

The pair of wires was protected from moisture by a lead metal sheath, grey in colour and referred to as "lead cable".

Old lead cable

2. 2 Pair Tech Wire (cat 3)

Commonly used with phone line installations. This cable consists of 4 wires, blue, white, black and red with a cream coloured outer sheath and is capable of carrying up to two separate phone lines.

3. 3 Pair Tech Wire (cat 3)

This cable is consists of 6 solid core wires, blue, white, black, red, green and gold with a cream coloured outer sheath and is capable of carrying up to three separate phone lines.

4. Cat 5 or cat 5e

Cat 5 cables can be used as a 4 phone line cable or as an Ethernet / Data cable.

This cable has eight solid core copper wires and is ideal for new house pre-wire installations as it has the capacity to carry up to 4 different phone line services.

The different twist rate on each pair of wires prevents induction from services onto the other 3 phone lines. Outer sheath cables are generally blue or grey in colour.

There are 4 pairs of twisted wires. The first pair of wires is blue with a blue white mate, the second pair is orange with an orange white mate, the third is green with a green white mate and the forth line is brown with a brown white mate.

Cat 5 cable

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