Troubleshooting Your VoIP Phone Adapter (ATA)

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The Problems

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As you are reading this article, you must already be using an ATA (analog telephone adapter) and are using a subscription-based VoIP service for your home or small business. Most of the problems associated with VoIP calls stem from the ATA, which is, therefore, the first thing you will look at whenever there is a problem.

For a good diagnosis, you first need to understand what the different lights on the ATA mean. If they are all working as they should, then the problem is most probably elsewhere and not with the ATA. In this case, you'd want to check your phone, Internet router or modem, your connection or PC configuration. As a last resort (well, this is very often the first resort for new users), call your VoIP service provider, because most of ATA's used are shipped by the service provider upon subscription to a VoIP service. Any straying of the lights from their normal behavior will put you on the track to diagnosing the problem.

Below is a list of the common problems related to the ATA. Walk through them on each page until you get your calls right.

  • No response from the ATA. Power light off, red or blinking.
  • No dial tone on the phone.
  • No Ethernet / LAN connection.
  • The phone does not ring and calls go to voicemail.
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No Response From The ATA

If the power light and all other lights are off, the adapter is simply not powered. Check the electrical plug or adapter. If the electrical connection is perfect but still the adapter does not respond, then you have some serious power supply problem with your adapter, and it needs either replacement or servicing.

A red or blinking power light indicates a failure of the adapter to properly initialize itself. The only thing to do then is to switch off the adapter, unplug it, wait some seconds, then plug it in again and switch it on. It will reinitialize. The power light should normally be red for some minutes and turn green afterward.

At times, using the wrong type of electrical adapter causes the power light to remain red. Be sure to check that with your supplier's documentation.

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No Dial Tone

Your phone should be plugged into the Phone 1 port of the ATA. A common mistake is to plug it into the Phone 2 port, leaving Phone 1 empty. Phone 2 should be used only if there is a second line or a fax line. To check that, pick up your phone's receiver of handset and press Talk or OK. If you have a single phone and Phone 2 lights up, you have plugged your phone jack into the wrong port.

Have you used a proper RJ-11 jack (commonly called a telephone jack)? If you have, you also need to check whether it is well fitted in the port. It will work only if you hear a 'click' when plugging it in, else it stays loose. There is a little tongue on the side of the jack that ensures proper 'clicking' and fitting of the jack to the port. That tongue very often easily gets torn off, especially with frequent removal and insertion of the jack. If that happens, have the jack replaced.

If the RJ-11 cord is an old one, there are chances that it is not transmitting data as it should, due to the effects of temperature, deformation etc. Have the cords replaced. They are quite cheap, and many ATA vendors ship two of these in the package.

The problem can also be with your phone set. Try connecting another phone and check if you get a dial tone.

Also, if your phone set is connected to the wall jack (PSTN) while being also connected to the adapter, you will not get a dial tone. This can furthermore be damaging to the equipment. A phone used with a VoIP adapter should not be connected to the PSTN wall jack, unless so specified.

The absence of a dial tone can also be the result of a bad connection with the Ethernet or Internet connection. This will be the case if the Ethernet/LAN connection light is off or red. To troubleshoot your connection, see the next step.

At times, resetting your system (adapter, router, modem etc.) can help solve a problem.

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No Ethernet / LAN Connection

VoIP phone adapters connect to the Internet through a cable or DSL router or modem or through a LAN. An all these cases, there is an Ethernet/LAN connection between the router, modem or LAN and the adapter. For this, RJ-45 cables and plugs are used. Any problem linked to that will cause the Ethernet/LAN light to be off or red.

Here again, the cable and its plug should be checked. The RJ-45 plug should 'click' when plugged into the Ethernet/LAN port. Check this the same way as described for the RJ-11 jack in the previous step.

Verify whether your Ethernet cable configuration is the right one. There are two possible configurations, the 'straight' cable and the 'crossover' cable. Here, you will need a 'straight' cable. The difference lies in the way the wires inside the cable (there are 8 in all) are arranged. To check whether your cable is a 'straight' cable, look at them through the transparent jack and compare their arrangements of both ends of the cable. If the wires are arranged in the same color sequence, the cable is 'straight'. 'Crossover' cables have different color arrangements on the two ends.

You also have to make sure that you have an active Internet connection. Check your router, modem or LAN, to which you a PC to see whether there is an Internet connection. A failed Internet connection will require you to troubleshoot your modem or router or to contact your ISP (Internet service provider).

If your ATA is connected to a LAN, you will want to check the network configurations. Here, many possible issues are involved, like IP addresses, access rights, etc.; the network administrator of the LAN is the best person to help you.

Here again, a complete reset of the whole VoIP equipment as might solve the problem.

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Phone Does Not Ring, Calls Go To Voicemail

This indicates that the call is actually received but since there is no ring, no one picks up, channeling the caller to your voicemail. To solve this:

  • Check whether your ring volume is not too low or your phone is not muted.
  • Check whether your phone set is connected to the right phone port of the phone adapter. The Phone 1 port should be used in the first place, and Phone 2 is used only if there is a second phone line or a fax line. To check whether your phone is connected to the right port, lift the receiver and press 'Talk' or 'OK'. If the Phone 2 port lights up, your phone is plugged to the wrong port.
  • It might also be that your phone's loudspeaker, normally found inside the casing, is damaged or has a wire loose or a welding undone.
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