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Vonage Home Wiring and Installation Guide Page One

Also covering Alarms, DirecTV, Tivo, ReplayTV, Dish Network, REN - Ringer Equivalency Number, Faxing & Apartment, Condo, Business Installations & more.

As discussed in the Vonage Hard Wiring and Installation Forum

Continued on Vonage Hard Wiring and Installation Page Two

One obstacle to replacing traditional phone service with Vonage Voice over IP is that for your existing home phone jacks to work, it's necessary to make a change to your inside telephone wiring.

Fortunately, this change is very easy to make. In some cases it's as simple as removing a plug from a jack. Still, a basic understanding of how telephone wiring works is useful before attempting to make such a switch.

A basic wiring primer:

Traditional telephone service is provided over a pair of wires. Virtually all telephone wiring installed in the past 50 years or so contains at least two pairs of wires, but that does not mean that all phone wiring is suitable for carrying two phone lines. In today's telephone wiring, each phone line is put on a pair that consists of a solid colored wire (such as solid blue) twisted together with a white wire. Usually this white wire will have a stripe of the same color as the solid wire of the pair (so you would have a blue wire paired with a white wire with a blue stripe), so that you don't get the white wires mixed up. Occasionally you'll see variations on this (for example, the mostly "solid" wire will have a white stripe in it) but you can usually tell what the pairs are, in part because the wires in each pair are twisted together inside the cable.

Four pair cableIn newer homes Cat 5 wire is almost always used for communications wiring — if not it will probably be at least Cat 3, which uses the same color coding ("Cat" is short for "category", by the way). Cat 5 wire generally has four pairs, while Cat 3 may have a different number of pairs, generally anywhere from three to six.

The primary pair, or "Line 1", is usually the blue and white (with blue stripe) pair. If there is a "Line 2", it is usually placed on the orange and white (with orange stripe) pair. Line three is on the green pair, and line four on the brown pair (if there is a fifth pair, it will be grey, or to use correct telephone company terminology, "slate"). This color coding scheme for multi-line telephone wiring has been used for years.

The outer jacket of this wiring may be blue, green, grey, beige, white, or occasionally some other color (blue is apparently the most popular outer jacket color for Cat 5 wire these days). The same colors are used for 10/100BaseT computer network cables, although the pairs are utilized differently in that situation. With telephone wiring, particularly if Cat 3 wire was used, the actual number of pairs in a cable may vary, but if standards were followed during the installation, the blue and white (with blue stripe) pair is always the primary phone line.

Quad cableIn older homes, you may find a whole different scheme, called "quad" wiring, which contains four wires colored red, green, yellow, and black. The primary phone line is normally the red and green wires. Sometimes you will find a second line on the yellow and black wires, but this is not good practice because, in quad cable, the wire pairs are not twisted together, which can result in "crosstalk" between the two lines. That is the main reason why "quad" wire is rarely seen in homes newer than a decade or so (in fact, it is a violation of a Federal Communications Commission rule to use any wiring that does not meet at least Cat 3 specifications for new and retrofit telephone wire installations made after July 8, 2000).

One other drawback to "quad" wire is that, because the pairs are not twisted, it is much more susceptible to picking up radio-frequency interference (RFI) from nearby transmitters. If you live near a radio station, or even a busy highway where vehicles travel with high-powered transmitters, you may hear interference from these transmitters in your phones. If this is the case, you should definitely consider replacing any "quad" wire with Cat 5 wire (not just Cat 3 — Cat 5 has tighter twists and resists RFI much better, and costs only a bit more).

To recap, if you only have one phone line in your home, it is probably on the blue and white (with blue stripe) pair, or if you have older wiring, the red and green wires. This assumes that whoever did the telephone wiring in your home followed the standard color codes. It's possible that in your home you find something different (particularly if the previous homeowner did the wiring), including things that will make you shudder, like seeing wires from completely different pairs used to form a circuit. If this is the case, and you don't know how to fix it yourself, you may require professional assistance to fix things up first.

Also, should you discover a non-standard type of wire used as telephone wiring, this should be replaced with approved Cat 5 telephone wire. Examples of non-standard wire would include doorbell wire, lamp cord, speaker cable, antenna wire, or any kind of stranded wire (telephone wire is always solid copper, never stranded wire, except for the modular cords used to connect a telephone or telephone device to a wall jack). If the wires do not conform to one of the color code schemes shown above, the wiring is probably not standard phone wire, and should be replaced.

Some homes built in the first half of the 20th century (or earlier) may have very old phone wiring which uses two or three wires twisted together, usually all with the same dark color insulation and with no outer jacket. It's a judgment call on whether to replace that wiring — if it is still working and the insulation appears to still be in good condition, with no visible damage, and it would be difficult to replace, then you may want to leave it alone for now. However, rubber-coated wire should always be replaced, because 50-year-old rubber insulation cannot be trusted, and is likely to crack and crumble at the slightest touch! If you need to replace old or non-standard wire, you should again seek professional assistance, if you don't know how to do it yourself.

Scotchlok™ Communications ConnectorsBefore we leave the subject of telephone wiring, there is one other thing that should be noted. Most readers of this page will probably not need to splice any telephone wires together, but if for some reason you do, do not use wire nuts — they do not make a secure connection, and will allow moisture to enter the splice and possibly corrode the copper. Instead, you should use only approved communications connectors, such as the Scotchlok™ connectors shown here — the one with the yellow center can connect two wires, while the one with the red center can connect two or three wires (the blue connector is harder to find but is used for inline splices, that is, adding a connection without cutting the original wire). It's always a good idea to make sure you get the gel-filled, moisture-resistant type of connector, but this is especially important if your splice will be made outdoors, or in a damp location. When using the communications connectors, clip off any bare copper ends on the wires (so that the entire length of each wire you are splicing has insulation on it) and then make sure you push the wires all the way into the connector, and that the wires do not slide out of the connector while you are crimping it.

Cascading Scotchlok™ Communications Connectors (using four connectors plus three short jumpers to connect six wires)What if you have more than three wires to connect? You can cascade the three wire (red center) connectors using short jumper wires, as shown in the diagram at the right. This can get messy if you have several pairs to connect, since for each pair you add (after the first three) you need two additional connectors and two short jumper wires. Still, if you are only connecting up to a half dozen or so pairs together, it's probably easier and less expensive to cascade connectors than to use any other connection method. Those needing to connect a larger number of Cat 3 or Cat 5 cables together may want to look for punchdown blocks specifically intended for that purpose, such as the Leviton 1x9 Bridged Phone Distribution Modules, models 47689-B and 47603-110 (these require use of a special punchdown tool, which most homeowners would not have available). Again, please bear in mind that the majority of readers of this page will not need to splice any telephone wires together, but if you do, please do it using the proper connectors.

Additional notes before we begin:

If you are replacing your traditional phone service with Vonage VoIP, you will need to disconnect your inside wiring from the telephone company's outside cables, and then connect your Vonage adapter to your inside wiring. This page attempts to explain how to do that safely. When we use the term " Vonage adapter" or "Vonage Vonage adapter", we mean the device that Vonage sends you, that usually has one or two phone jacks on it as well as a way to connect it to your broadband Internet connection. Typical adapters are made by Motorola, Linksys and Cisco, and a few other manufacturers. From time to time, Vonage ships various adaptors.  Some of the more common Vonage adaptors are the Motorola VT1005v, Motorola VT2442, Linksys RTP300, Linksys PAP2, Linksys RT31P2 and Linksys WRTP54G.

Please note that the following text only covers the "how-to" of replacing your traditional phone service with Vonage VoIP service. On this page, we will not deal with the pros and cons of whether you should replace your traditional phone service. Also, before we get started, we unfortunately need to say this.....


There is NO WARRANTY on the instructions given on this page. We've tried to make them as clear as possible, but you follow them AT YOUR OWN RISK. In other words, if you follow these instructions and somehow manage to damage your equipment, burn your house down, or cause a blackout affecting half of the United States, WE WILL NOT PAY FOR IT. YOU and YOU ALONE assume all the risk! If you do not agree with this, or even if you are simply uncomfortable with this, you may NOT use the following information. BY USING THE INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE, YOU AGREE NOT TO HOLD THE SITE CREATOR LIABLE IF SOMETHING SHOULD GO WRONG. So, if you are the least bit nervous about this, do yourself a favor and hire a competent telephone technician to do the work.

Also, please note that various adapters or products may carry their own warnings. For example, the Cisco ATA-186 installation manual warns, "Do not connect the Cisco ATA-186 PHONE input ports to the telephone wall jack. To prevent damage to the device or building telephone wiring, connect each Cisco ATA-186 PHONE port to a telephone only, never to a telephone wall jack."

If you choose to ignore any such warnings, you do so at your own risk. Cisco in particular warns, "To reduce the risk of fire, use only No. 26 AWG or larger telecommunication line cord." It may well be that one reason for the warning against using existing telephone wiring is that it may not be possible for the average user to tell if the gauge of the wiring is sufficient. In any case, if you ignore the manufacturer's warning you do so at your own risk.

Note that the Federal Communication Commission's current rules require that copper inside wiring "shall be, at a minimum, solid, 24 gauge or thicker, twisted pairs, marked to indicate compliance with the electrical specifications for Category 3, as defined in the ANSI/EIA/TIA Building Wiring Standards" (The FCC order also states, "Inside wiring material exceeding the minimum requirements specified in section 68.213(c) as amended by this Order may be used and should be marked to indicate those characteristics." And in case you didn't know, the lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire — 24 gauge is thicker than 26 gauge).

Of course, we all know that every manufacturer must take great care to cover themselves legally with disclaimers and warnings. If, for example, Cisco didn't issue these warnings and someone hooked up their device to some old, decrepit phone wiring that was three sizes too small, and the house caught fire, the lawyers would be circling like buzzards. Even if it wasn't the fault of their device, but it just looked like the fire started somewhere near the phone wiring, an overzealous lawyer could cause a lot of trouble. So, manufacturers feel compelled to issue such warnings, and we must advise you to follow such warnings. Unless you are willing to personally assume any and all risks associated with not following the warnings, you should indeed follow them explicitly.

So... the following information is given for educational purposes only. We do NOT recommend that you actually do anything mentioned below, but if you choose to do it anyway, you do so at your own risk, period! We also urge you to have a qualified telephone technician or licensed electrician (as appropriate) do any work involving telephone or electrical wiring of any kind. Be sure to follow all fire safety and electrical codes, and observe all warnings in the device manufacturer's printed materials.

Many people have used the instructions on this page with success, however we are aware that a few people have attempted to use these instructions and have damaged their Vonage adapters. Generally this has happened because they have not completely followed the instructions, and in particular, they did not test their inside wiring to make sure it was completely dead before plugging in their adapter. However, even if you follow these instructions to the letter, we do not assume any responsibility if you damage your adapter. We are warning you here that these instructions may be wrong or incomplete at some point, or may not apply in your particular unique situation. General instructions cannot apply in 100% of the situations homeowners may encounter, because any given phone company may have used a unique or non-standard installation method.

And one other thing — if your home has the older style "quad" wiring (or worse yet, the really old stuff with individual wires twisted together with no outer jacket), we urge you in the strongest possible way to have it replaced with modern Cat 5 wiring by a competent technician or electrician, in order to avoid any possible risk of fire or personal injury that may be caused by putting excessive current through insufficient wiring! Now, back to our educational material...

Please note that as written, the following instructions ONLY apply to single-family homes with a single phone line. These instructions are NOT intended for use in multi-family dwellings, shared tenant arrangements, or any place where phone lines belonging to more than one customer may enter the building! Also, if you have a home alarm system, please read the section on alarm system telephone wiring before making any changes to your inside wiring.

Also, these instructions assume that you no longer have service of any kind from your local wireline telephone company. If you have DSL service (and, probably, one line of basic telephone service), then you will need to maintain a connection to your DSL modem and to any telephones inside your home that are connected to the telephone company's service. If that is the case, you may still wish to read all of the following instructions, because they provide some basic information about telephone wiring, but you will want to pay special attention to the sections on "Using Vonage VoIP as line 2" and "A DSL alternative."

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you connect your Vonage adapter to your inside wiring until you have completely read AND FOLLOWED the instructions in the following paragraphs. After you've destroyed your Vonage adapter there isn't a single thing we can do to help you, so PLEASE read the following paragraphs carefully and if you do not COMPLETELY understand what needs to be done, do not proceed!

Now we get started:

If your intent is to totally disconnect from your local phone company, you need to isolate your inside wiring from the lines feeding your home, that come from the telephone company central office. You need to do this even if the line seems to be dead, because at some point the phone company could place voltage across that line for one reason or another, and that could damage your equipment, and even possibly start a fire! So here is how to isolate your inside wiring from the telephone company's lines.

Network Interface UnitOn the outside of your home, you should find a telephone company Network Interface Unit. This is the demarcation point between your wiring and the telephone company's wiring. It may not look exactly like the one in the picture at the left, but you will know it because the telephone cable coming to your home from the street, as well as one or more lines from inside your home will go into it. When you open it (usually by undoing a single common screw), you will be able to access the wires going into your home, but not the ones coming from the street. This is by design. There should also be a ground wire coming out of the telephone company's side of the box. It is important to leave the ground wire connected, since it can help guard against lightning damage to your home (in the event that lightning strikes a nearby phone cable).

Old style lightning protectorNote: There may be a few older homes that still have an old-style telephone company lighting protector (such as the one pictured at the right, which has the cover removed) on the outside of the home (or sometimes it was placed inside the home, at the point where the outside telephone wiring came into the home). It's rather rare to come across that situation, since almost all of those older protectors were replaced with the newer style Network Interface Units years ago. An even less common situation is to find the protector, or possibly a Network Interface Unit mounted on a pole at some distance from the home. These instructions aren't really intended to address those types of situations, although if you have a basic understanding of good telephone wiring practices and you read through these instructions, you may be able to figure out what needs to be done (the section below entitled "New advice for a new kind of Network Interface Unit" may be of some help, since that situation is actually fairly similar).

Terminals inside the Network Interface UnitOnce inside the Network Interface Box, you should see one or more sets of screw terminals (two or four screw terminals per line) and short stubs of wire with a standard telephone plug on the end, plugged into a matching jack as shown here (if you don't see the wire stub and plug, you may have a "plugless" Network Interface Unit - in that case, see the section below entitled "New advice for a new kind of Network Interface Unit"). If there is only one line coming into your home, there will probably only be one plug and set of screw terminals. Now, assuming that you are the sole occupant of your home, it should be sufficient to simply unplug all the plugs. Unfortunately, that leaves too much opportunity for Murphy's Law ("anything that can go wrong, will") to come into play. In this case, what can go wrong is a telephone company employee going to the wrong home (yours), finding the plug unplugged, and plugging it back in.

Multi-Line Network Interface UnitNote: The above photo shows part of a brand new Network Interface Box with no wiring installed. Your box will have one or more pairs of wires attached to the screws adjacent to the plug(s). If the screws next to a particular plug have no wires attached, then unplugging that plug will be ineffective, since no inside wiring is connected to that plug. If you open a box and see only screw terminals with no wires attached, STOP - something isn't right (it is not uncommon for there to be four screws next to a plug but only two of them are wired, however if none of them are wired, then that plug is not being used with any inside wiring). Unplugging a plug next to totally unconnected screw terminals will NOT break the connection to the phone company's wiring. Also, we again remind you that these instructions are not intended to cover situations where there are multiple lines involved, such as the network interface box shown at the right. You might encounter this type of box on the side of a condominium, apartment building, or other multi-family situation, or in a home where there were once multiple lines installed (a home that was once used for business purposes, or possibly a telemarketing operation). There is simply no way we can tell you which wire(s) would be the proper one(s) to disconnect in a situation like this, and if you disconnect the wrong wires, you might interrupt service to a neighbor (in a multi-family situation). Even if you see a plug (as shown in the photo), unplugging it may not disconnect the wires you really need to disconnect.

Warning the phone company:

You don't want to remove the interface because someday you might sell your home, and the next person to come along may want phone service. So, here is what we suggest. PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING TWO PARAGRAPHS CAREFULLY, THEY ARE QUITE POSSIBLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ON THIS PAGE:

First, unplug all the plugs and take some black plastic electrical tape (or any other vinyl tape you may have) and wrap the ends of the plugs, so that they cannot be plugged back in without removing the tape. Then, take a stiff piece of cardboard (preferably white) and cut it so it will just fit inside the box when you close the lid. In waterproof ink (some felt-tip ink and most bubble-jet printer ink is NOT waterproof), write something like this in bold letters on the cardboard: "ATTENTION TELEPHONE COMPANY: DO NOT RECONNECT THESE CIRCUITS — WILL DAMAGE EQUIPMENT INSIDE!" Shut the lid on the box and screw it down. Then take a label and write the same message and tape it to the outside of the lid using clear waterproof tape. Why? Well, in case you hadn't noticed, these are "trick" boxes. The phone company can open their side AND your side in such a way that the cardboard might stay in the lid. So by putting the message both inside and outside the box, you reduce the chance that it won't be seen.

Hang tag tied to end of plug inside Network Interface UnitAn even better idea is to use a small hang tag with string (like the tags that some auto repair shops attach to your keys while you have your car in for service). You can write your message on one of those and tie it right to the plug.

Another thing you can do, although you shouldn't need to if you have taped the plugs and left a message inside the box, is to physically disconnect the wires from underneath the screw terminals. But if you do that, you need to tape the ends of the wires so they cannot short out against each other — or anything else — inside the box. Also, don't do this if there is more than one set of inside wires connected to the screw terminals — in other words, if you see more than one wire connected underneath a single screw, then leave the wires alone — otherwise, you'll most likely break the connection between the phone jacks inside your home, which is exactly what you don't want to do (there is one exception to this advice, and that is when you encounter one of the new "plugless" Network Interface Units — see the next section). Just unplug and tape and tag the plug, as mentioned above.

One other thing you can do is to wrap a long nylon tie-wrap completely around the box so that the box cannot be opened without cutting the tie-wrap. In other words, anything you can do to give a phone company employee second thoughts about opening the box and/or reconnecting the plug can't hurt.

If you ever sell your home, please remember to reverse what you have done, so the new owner doesn't have to pay the phone company some outrageous sum to come out and take the tape off of your plug (note that if the tape has left sticky residue on the plug, you might want to clean the plug with a little WD-40 on a rag to remove the adhesive, followed by denatured alcohol to remove the WD-40! And, for goodness sake, LET THE ALCOHOL DRY COMPLETELY before you plug the plug back into the jack — alcohol and sparks are an explosive combination!).

Note: If you live in a home built prior to the mid-1980's, check around the house to make sure there are no old dial light transformers or similar pieces of auxiliary equipment connected to the phone line. In particular, look for any small device similar in size to the AC adapters used with many pieces of electronic equipment, that plug into an AC power outlet and also connect to the telephone line (usually to the yellow and black wires of the old "quad" style cable). Such devices could be placed near any telephone jack or terminal block, or near the home's fuse/circuit breaker box. If you find any such devices, you should totally disconnect them from both the AC power supply and the telephone line, making use that any phone wires removed from such devices are taped or clipped off so they cannot short against each other, or touch anything else metallic. Be careful not to disconnect any equipment still in use, such as components associated with an alarm system (see below).

New advice for a new kind of Network Interface Unit:

Plugless module in Network Interface UnitWe'd had this page up for several months when a reader sent us a picture of the inside of a type of Network Interface Device we'd never seen before, a portion of which is shown at the left (there is also a manufacturer's specification sheet for this unit, in .PDF format). This particular Network Interface Unit uses a "Customer Bridge Module" for each line, which has a standard telephone jack for test purposes but no plug! It appears that perhaps, if the customer plugs a phone into the jack, that will break the connection to the inside wiring, possibly due to the use of some kind of internal shorting mechanism inside the jack. Unfortunately, the manufacturer's specification sheet for the Customer Bridge Module does not explicitly state that, so we don't know for sure if the connection is actually broken when the test jack is in use.

And then there is another problem with the particular modules shown here — on the cover of each module you can read the words, "CONTAINS HALF-RINGER", which means the module contains a "dummy" load equivalent to one half of a standard telephone ringer (this "dummy" load allows the phone company to do a line test even when no telephones are connected to the line). The reason that the added ringer load is a problem is because many Vonage adapters are a bit stingy with the amount of ring current provided (see the section entitled "Avoid too many ringers" below) and that dummy load might be just enough to prevent your phones from ringing properly.

So, should you be so unfortunate as to have one of these types of "plugless" Network Interface Units, we recommend that you disconnect the inside wiring from the screw terminals completely. If there is only one wire under each screw, then just snip the bare copper end off each wire (so the wire is completely insulated) and leave the wires hanging in the box, unconnected. If there is more than one wire under each screw, then you will have to connect all the wires currently under each screw together without using the screw terminals. Lift all the wires from underneath one of the screws, and connect them using a Scotchlok™ connector (as shown near the top of the page) or some other approved method of splicing communications wires together, then lift the wires from the other screw and do the same with them. Note that if you can see where the wires enter the house (as in a basement) it might be better to pull the wires completely out of the box and back into the house and make your splices there, to keep the splices out of the weather.

We hate to tell anyone to splice telephone wiring since it is often difficult for a homeowner to make a proper splice. A bad splice can cause noise during conversations, difficulty in getting phones to ring, and bad splices are a major reason that radio frequency interference gets onto telephone lines. But, there's just no way to safely use the screw terminals in this new type of "plugless" network interface, since it is not possible to positively disconnect the screw terminals from the telephone company's wiring. And, as if that weren't enough of a problem, if you have one of the modules with the "dummy" ringer load, it could reduce the number of ringers that your Vonage VoIP device will operate.

Note: This information is for those that have done work on radios, televisions, etc. and who have a soldering iron and know how to use it correctly: It is certainly possible to twist together wires that you wish to connect, and flow solder over the connection (Radio-TV type solder only — NEVER USE ACID CORE SOLDER, or the type of solder used for plumbing!). Make sure you don't have a "cold" solder joint — if, after the solder has cooled, it does not appear bright and shiny, but instead appears dull and grainy, then it is not a good solder joint and must be re-heated and re-flowed. After the solder cools, you can dip the connection (up to a point past where the insulation begins) into the end of a tube of REAL silicone rubber caulk ("siliconized" caulk is NOT acceptable, it should be 100% real silicone) to insulate and waterproof the connection — allow the silicone to dry completely before touching or moving the wires. If the connection is in a relatively dry location then it is also possible to use electrical tape or heat-shrink tubing to insulate the soldered connection. However, if you do not have experience with using a soldering iron to connect wires, we strongly recommend that you stick to approved communications connectors to make your splices, since bad solder joints WILL pick up radio-frequency interference from nearby transmitters.

What if it's a new house, or there's no Network Interface Unit?

Some people have wanted to install Vonage VoIP service in a brand new home, or a home that has been extensively remodeled and that no longer has a Network Interface Unit. Since this document is not intended to be a "How To" on basic telephone wiring, we will not cover all the steps necessary to wire a home for telephone service — there are several other sites on the Web that do a better job of that. We will only give the following hints: First, when running new wiring, use only Cat 5 wire or better. Second, to avoid picking up hum and noise, keep your phone wiring as far away from electrical wiring as possible — never run phone wires through the same holes (in studs or support beams) as electrical wires, and never run phone wires parallel to, and in close proximity to electrical wires. Third, if you are installing flush mount jacks and if local electrical codes allow it, consider using plastic mud rings rather than electrical boxes (note that this is only permissible for low voltage wiring such as telephone wiring — never use a mud ring for standard electrical wiring), because with a mud ring you can avoid making sharp bends in your phone wiring and can leave some excess wire inside the wall. Finally, instead of a Network Interface Unit (which you don't need when using Vonage), run a wire from each phone jack to a central location (in a dry area of the home) and connect all the wires together using an appropriate connection device (for example, look at the Leviton 1x9 Bridged Telephone Module, which allows the wiring from up to ten phone jacks, one of which would be connected to your Vonage adapter as described below, to be easily connected together).

Plugging Vonage in:

Once you have disconnected all the lines inside the network interface box, pick up a regular corded telephone inside the home (that is plugged into a previously working jack) and you should hear nothing — the line should be totally dead. If it isn't, something is very wrong and you should stop right there and get a telephone technician out to check the inside wiring in your home (assuming you can't figure out the source of the problem yourself). Another test is to push one of the buttons on the phone's touch tone pad, again you should near nothing — no tones, no clicks, just dead silence. Do NOT use a cordless phone for this test, or any phone that uses batteries or an external power supply — the closer you can get to a plain old telephone, the better!

Now that you know the line is dead, plug your Vonage VoIP telephone adapter into any one of the telephone jacks in your home (using a standard telephone line cord). Connect standard telephones into the other jacks in your home and your whole house is now wired for Vonage.

There is a common misconception that you have to run a wire from the adapter out to the network interface box and connect to the telephone wiring there. Generally speaking, that is not true — telephone jacks are wired in parallel, so you should be able to plug the adapter into any working phone jack, and that will feed the signal to the other jacks in your home.

An alarming exception:

We also suggest you visit the Vonage Fax, TiVo and Alarm Forum for detailed discussions

There is one notable exception, where you cannot just plug your Vonage adapter into any jack, and that is if you have a home alarm system that connects to the telephone line. In that case, you will almost certainly need to connect your adapter to the phone wiring before it reaches the alarm, otherwise the alarm may not work properly (your inside phone jacks will work, but your alarm system will be unable to dial out).

RJ31X jack wiring in alarm systemMany home alarms are wired using a RJ31X jack (an 8-pin modular jack, usually located close to one of the alarm's components), and there is a single pair of wires that connects the RJ31X jack to the Network Interface Box outside. If that is your situation, you could disconnect that wire pair coming from the Network Interface Box at the RJ31X jack, and substitute a connection to your Vonage adapter, as shown in the graphic (note that RJ31X jacks may vary in design by manufacturer, so it's remotely possible that the proper screw terminals may not be in the same position as shown on the graphic). If the screw terminals or punch-down connections in the RJ31X jack are numbered, the pair in question is usually on connectors 4 and 5. Do NOT plug your Vonage adapter into the RJ31X jack! You must make a wire connection to the terminals inside the jack. For additional information on RJ31X jack wiring, including an explanation of how the RJ31X works and why it is used, we suggest you visit How To Properly Wire An Alarm For Use With Vonage.

However, before you make any modifications to your inside wiring, there is something you need to know about using an alarm system with Vonage, and that is that some systems will work just fine with Vonage and some can be made to work if the alarm company will change the method that the alarm unit uses to communicate with the monitoring center. There may be a few alarm units still out there somewhere that still use the old-style rotary dial pulses to dial out, rather than touch tones, and such units will not work with Vonage unless they can be reprogrammed to dial out using touch tones.

For those that wish to attempt to make their present alarm system work, we urge you to contact your alarm company for advice and assistance. You should know that Vonage users have reported that it is best to have the alarm set to use the 4+2 and/or SIA format, NOT "Contact ID" Also, be sure to test your alarm system to make sure it's working properly after making any changes to the wiring.

One possible method of VoIP with alarm wiringThis diagram may be helpful to those of you that grasp the basics of telephone wiring. It shows one possible method of hooking up a Vonage adapter to an existing alarm system, and is intended to illustrate a concept, not to be a schematic diagram. The older "quad" color codes are used because they show up better in a small diagram like this (and are also a lot easier to draw!). The idea is that wherever you want to put your Vonage adapter, you rewire the phone jack at that location to utilize an otherwise unused pair (in this case the yellow and black pair) to carry the signal from the Vonage adapter back to the Network Interface Unit. Very likely there will already be a wire coming from the alarm system (the RJ31X jack) with two pairs, one of which feeds the phone jacks inside the home from the alarm (the red and green pair in this diagram), and the other which carries dial tone to the alarm (the yellow and black pair in this diagram). So what is happening here is that the yellow and black pair is carrying dial tone from the Vonage adapter to the alarm, and the red and green pair is carrying the dial tone from the alarm to the rest of the house. Your color codes may not be the same (and you will have to pay careful attention to which colors are associated with the line in, and which are used for the line out at the RJ31X jack) but again, this is just to illustrate the concept of sending dial tone from the Vonage adapter on an unused pair to the Network interface unit, then from there to the alarm, then from the alarm back to the network interface unit (on a different pair), and then to the rest of the jacks in the house. The advantage of doing it this way is that you will probably be able to use cable pairs in existing wiring, and may not have to run any new wiring at all. The essential thing here is to be absolutely sure that the dial tone from your Vonage adapter is connected to the same terminals on the RJ31X jack where the dial tone from the phone company originally came into the jack.

One other thing to note: Vonage, offer a "bandwidth saver" feature. If you make any changes to this feature (selecting higher, or especially lower bandwidth usage), it might affect the ability of your alarm system to communicate, so be sure to retest your alarm system's ability to "phone home" if you change the bandwidth usage. In most cases, you should get best results if you use the highest bandwidth setting (that is, the "bandwidth saver" disabled), but other settings may work as well, depending on the coding scheme your alarm uses.

What about TiVo, ReplayTV, Dish Network, DirecTV, etc.?

We suggest you visit the Vonage Fax, TiVo and Alarm Forum for detailed discussions

The good news is that unlike alarm systems, you don't have to worry about any special wiring considerations with these units (no RJ31X jack to worry about). Many users report that they work just fine, or can be made to work with a little effort. Before doing anything else, make sure that you don't have any sort of "bandwidth saver" enabled on your Vonage service — set it to the maximum allowable bandwidth (after you get everything working you can try other settings, but don't be surprised if using "bandwidth saver" makes these types of connections somewhat less reliable).

DSL FilterIf things aren't going well, one trick that is sometimes used to improve connections is to take an inline DSL filter (the filter that is used by DSL subscribers to filter data noise out of normal telephone conversations, similar to the unit shown at the left) and connect it backwards to the device in question, that is, inserting the plug of the filter into the device rather than the wall jack (this has also been known to improve performance with certain FAX machines, although Vonage offers specific support for Faxing so this is less likely to be an issue). Another thing that some have suggested is that call waiting should be disabled, although that probably won't make a big difference unless people often try to call you while your electronic devices are "phoning home."

Another thing you should do is check the menus to see if there is any way to adjust the data transmission speed. Generally, the slowest setting possible will give the best results. ReplayTV users should set the connection speed down to 19.2kbps. With a stand-alone TiVo or an early model DirecTiVo (but not a Series 2, apparently), changing the dial prefix to ,#034 changes the internal modem speed to 28.8kbps, and ,#019 changes the internal modem speed to 19.2kbps (include the leading comma in both cases). With a Series 2 TiVo, the following codes may work instead: ,#338 to connect at 38.4kbps, and ,#396 to connect at 9.6kbps (we recommend the latter, and once again, the leading comma must be included). Some have reported successful connections by using an external modem and setting the connection speed of the modem to 19.2 or 9.6 or even 2.4kbps.  There is a firm that sells external modems for the TiVo.

Some have reported that the following dialing sequence works well with Vonage adaptors and TiVo:

Dial Prefix: 12122773895
Call Waiting Prefix: *99,,*70,,#019,,
Phone Available: Off
Dial Tone Detect: Off

In the above settings, the "12122773895" is a TiVo local number in New York City that apparently seems to work when others will not. In the "Call Waiting Prefix", *99 is a code specific to the Cisco ATA-186 adapter that forces it to use a better codec.  *70 is the "cancel call waiting" code, and ,#019 changes the internal modem speed to 19.2kbps.

Here are similar successful Vonage, DirecTV and TiVo dialing sequences

In some cases, there may be a much better solution than messing with dialing codes and configuration settings — for example, with some TiVo units it's possible to directly connect them to your broadband connection, bypassing your Vonage service entirely. Some TiVo DVR units can be directly connected to a wireless network using the USB connector, after which you must use these instructions to set up your TiVo.

Please note that many people don't have to do any of what we have written in this section — they simply connect their home electronics devices up in the normal manner to their inside telephone wiring, and when that is switched over to Vonage, everything still works. We don't know why it's that way for some people but not for others!


Vonage Home Wiring and Installation Guide Page One

Also covering Alarms, DirecTV, Tivo, ReplayTV, Dish Network, REN - Ringer Equivalency Number, Faxing & Apartment, Condo, Business Installations & more.

Continued On Vonage Hard Wiring and Installation Page Two

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