Telephone line


Telephone line
Phone pole with phone and mainly electric lines
Fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants 1997–2007

A telephone line or telephone circuit (or just line or circuit within the industry) is a single-user circuit on a telephone communication system. Typically this refers to the physical wire or other signaling medium connecting the user's telephone apparatus to the telecommunications network, and usually also implies a single telephone number for billing purposes reserved for that user.

In 1876 the earliest lines were single electrically conducting metal wires directly connecting one telephone to another with the Earth forming the return circuit. Later in 1878 the Bell Telephone Company began to use two-wire circuits (called the local loop) from each user's telephone to end offices which performed any necessary electrical switching to allow voice signals to be transmitted to more distant telephones.

These wires were typically copper, although aluminium has also been used, and were carried in balanced pairs separated by about 25 cm (10") on poles above the ground, and later as twisted pair cables. Modern lines may run underground, and may carry analog or digital signals to the exchange, or may have a device that converts the analog signal to digital for transmission on a carrier system.

In most cases, two copper wires (tip and ring) for each telephone line run from a home or other small building to a local telephone exchange. There is a central junction box for the building where the wires that go to telephone jacks throughout the building and wires that go to the exchange meet and can be connected in different configurations depending upon the subscribed telephone service. The wires between the junction box and the exchange are known as the local loop, and the network of wires going to an exchange, the access network.

Most houses in the U.S. are wired with 6-position modular jacks with four conductors wired to the house's junction box with copper wires. Those wires may be connected back to two telephone lines at the local telephone exchange, thus making those jacks RJ14 jacks. More often, only two of the wires are connected to the exchange as one telephone line, and the others are unconnected. In that case, the jacks in the house are RJ11.

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