In the modern world of smartphones, tablets, video calls, and laptops, landlines can feel like a thing of the past, a relic of a bygone era. However, you would be wrong to make that conclusion, as nearly three-quarters of UK households still have an active landline used to make and receive calls.

Moreover, even if you don't use a landline telephone, you may still need your phone line to be active to connect broadband to your home. And you may also find that your mobile contract runs out of minutes, and you need your house phone package to fall back on.

Therefore, having an active phone line is still an important component of modern connectivity. So how can you check if a phone line is active?

Join us as we explore several methods for checking a phone line's activity.

The quickest and easiest way to check if a phone line is still active is either to call it and see if it rings or to pick up the receiver and listen for a dial tone. However, if neither of these methods provides you with the quick answer you were looking for, there are several other methods to check if the line is active and, if it isn't, what the problem with the line may be.

Some of the methods we will outline you can carry out, and some will require the assistance of a telephone engineer. Generally speaking, it is your responsibility to make any repairs for wiring problems within your home, and it is the responsibility of your phone network provider to repair any problems that occur outside your house. If you want an engineer to fix an issue within your home, they will likely charge for their services.

So let's jump in and find out what the first method is.

Method 1 - fix phone connectivity issues

One of the reasons you may need to check if your phone line is still active is if you have connectivity issues. To fix your connectivity issues and make sure your line is still active, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure all the phones in your home are securely on the hook. Any phone off the hook can interrupt your line and mean you cannot make or receive calls.
  2. Check that any cordless phones are charged. If they aren't, charge them for a few minutes, and then check the line again. If your phone's battery is dead, the phone line is inactive. If you have a corded phone as well as a cordless one, you can check the rest of the line while the cordless phone charges.
  3. Ensure that the phone cord is fully plugged into the telephone jack. Try unplugging it and plugging it back in - it may be a cliché, but it often works. If the problem persists and you have alternative phone plugs, try plugging your phone into another plug.
  4. Check the dial tones in each of your phones. If it is buzzing in some but not others, then the phone is likely the problem and not the line.
  5. Ring your number from another line, such as your mobile. This helps you to determine whether you can receive calls but not make them.

Method 2 - fix outdoor issues

Landlines are connected to wires and masts outside your home and hook up to your phone company's lines. Sometimes the fault with a phone line can be in the cables connected to your home. Here's how you can fix it if that is the issue:

  1. Find the phone cable that connects your home. Outside your house, a cable should be attached to your home, and if you have a telephone pole nearby, it should also be connected to the pole. If you follow this cable, you will find your phone box.
  2. The phone box is normally a square plastic box on the exterior of your house. Unscrew the lid on the box (you may need a screwdriver). You may have to call your phone company if you cannot open the box.
  3. Find the main phone socket, the point at which the phone box connects with the cable. Remove the chord from the plug.
  4. Now get a phone from inside your home and plug it directly into the plug in the phone box. This connects the phone directly to external telephone lines.
  5. Listen for a dial tone. If you hear a dial tone, your issues are with the phone line inside your house, and you may be able to fix it yourself. If you don't hear a dial tone, the issue is with the exterior phone line coming from outside, and you will need your phone provider to fix it.

Method 3 - use a voltmeter or multimeter

A multimeter and voltmeter can check your phone line's connection. A voltmeter can also check if the phone company's signal is connected to your home. So let's see how they work:

  1. Unplug all the devices connected to your phone line. This includes phones, WiFi routers, and fax machines.
  2. Open your phone box (which we explained how to do above). If you are using a voltmeter, leave everything plugged in and connected.
  3. Touch the voltmeter probes to the wires within the box. Touch the black probe to the red wire and the red probe to the green wire.
  4. Check the meter. There should be a reading between 45-48 mV. If there is no reading or it reads 0, you need to call the phone company and request a service. If there is a reading, then continue with the next steps.
  5. Now disconnect the main phone cord and the coloured phone wires.
  6. Set your voltmeter or multimeter to the continuity setting - if you don't know how to do this, check the instructions that came with the device.
  7. Touch each of the probes to the coloured phone wires. If you use a multimeter, touch the probes that match the coloured wires. If you’re using a voltmeter, touch the black probe to the red wire and the red probe to the green wire. If your probes or wires are none of these colours, touch them in pairs to check for continuity.
  8. Check for continuity. The continuity symbol on your multimeter or voltmeter should be clear, but if it isn't, consult the manual. If there is continuity, it suggests a problem with the wiring inside your home. If there isn't, the problem is external, and you need to call the phone company to fix it.

Method 4 - check if the line is busy

Perhaps the reason you are unable to connect to a phone line is simply that it is busy. Here's to check if that is the case:

  1. Dial the number you want to check.
  2. Listen for either a ring or a busy signal.
  3. If you get a busy signal, ring back in half an hour.
  4. If the signal is still busy, it may mean that the phone is off the hook or that the number is engaged in a long call.

Method 5 - Check for a phone line

Another reason you may not know if a phone line is active is that you may not know if your house even has a phone line.

So, we hear you ask, how can I check if my house has a phone line?

  1. To begin with, you simply need to find a phone socket. These are the plugs in the walls that connect to phone jacks and not to regular household plugs.
  2. Once you have located the socket, plug in a phone and listen to the receiver.
  3. If you hear a dial tone, the phone line in your house is connected. If you do not hear a dial tone, either your house is not connected or there is a problem with the connection, and you must carry out one of the fixes we outlined above.

Although most people now have mobile phones, plenty still use landlines. For example, older people are particularly likely to use landlines. Therefore, checking that your landline or an elderly relative's is still in use is a good way to ensure they remain connected.

Another reason to check your phone line is still active is that many network providers require an active landline to install broadband into your home. While some broadband providers don't require an active landline, others do, which can complicate transferring from one company to another if the phone line is inactive. Checking your phone line connection is quicker and cheaper than buying broadband, only to find out your connections no longer work.

If you have a broadband package and the connection relies on your phone line, you can also include phone use in your wider package. Many providers will include this for little or no extra cost. Then, if or when you use all your minutes on your mobile contract, you have a backup phone that ensures you don't get charged for using the extra minutes.

Testing a phone line is simple and can be done using one of our outlined methods. Once you have discerned where the problem lies (if there is one), you can either fix the issue yourself or call your telephone network provider. If the issue is within your home, you normally are expected to fix it yourself. If the issue is outside your home, the phone service company should send an engineer to fix it.

Active phone lines keep us connected and are often necessary for linking your home to broadband. So keep your phone line active, even if you don't think you need to.