Can I use a phone from the USA in Australia?
September 25, 2005 4:49 PM   Subscribe

If I buy a phone in the USA, can I just plug it into the wall back in Australia?

(Yes, I know you're not supposed to plug in anything that's not Austel approved).

From what I understand, US phones plug into standard RJ11 sockets. Most Australian homes have RJ11 sockets for wall-mounted phones, and if all you have is the old RJ605 socket, you can get a 605->11 adapter easy enough.

However, most of these adapters seem to be marketed as "modem adapters". Some sellers mention that you don't have to worry about different electrical standards when travelling in Oz, because your laptop/PC will already be plugged into a mains converter and will provide DC power to the modem. I'm not sure whether this implies that you do have to worry about different electrical standards for telephones.

In short, if I plug a phone from the USA into an Aussie socket, will it explode?
posted by obiwanwasabi to Technology (7 answers total)
Have a look at this site which explains international voltages and power conectors. US appliances are 115 volts as opposed to 240 volts in Australia. First check on the US plug the input capacity. it should say something like 100-240v. If it can input up to 240v then all you need is a simple converter plug which costs about $A 15. If it can't you'll need to either get an Australian cahrger on ebay or from the manufacturer when you get back to Australia.
posted by mule at 5:47 PM on September 25, 2005

Mule: I think obiwanwasabi is more concerned about telephone line voltage than mains voltage.
posted by Jimbob at 5:57 PM on September 25, 2005

The answer is "no", at least for legal reasons. The telephone system is different here and for a phone to be plugged in, it must be of an approved design. Phones from the US are not.

Regardless of the legalities, some won't work anyway though some will. This is completely independent of the mains voltage issues (110V vs 240V) if the phone has a separate power supply.
posted by polyglot at 6:14 PM on September 25, 2005

by "no" I mean "you can't plug it in", not "it won't explode". Explosions are unlikely but equipment damage - at your end OR the exchange - is definitely within the realms of possibility. Telstra will get very grumpy if you bust a port on their exchange.

The RJ605-RJ11 adapters are just a plug. They don't change voltages or interpret signalling tones.
posted by polyglot at 6:16 PM on September 25, 2005

US phones that don't have additional power requirements (e.g. cordless) work in Oz, in my experience (a couple of attempts).
That said, I have a British phone that doesn't work at all, for reasons that are unclear to me...
posted by bystander at 9:01 PM on September 25, 2005

My German-bought (Binatone) phone won't work in South Africa as regards the ringer. No clue why. It works otherwise. But an American phone does work, and worked in Germany and the UK as well.
posted by Goofyy at 10:15 PM on September 25, 2005

The World Wide Phone Guide gives information about using modems in various locales. Not exactly a telephone, but I'm fairly sure the same information applies. IANA telecom expert, but from what I've gathered on a number of websites, if you have an RJ11 wherever you go, you should be fine.

As far as voltage goes -- every site I went to specifically warned about places (place as in hotel, not as in country) that use digital PBX (private branch exchange or "business") phone systems that may have different voltages and fry modems -- and, by extension, phones. The omission of a similar warning about voltage differing by country leads me to think there's no such hazard. IIRC, phone data is transmitted by means of electrical impulse, and I'd think if every country had its own standard, chaos would ensue. But we covered electricity in two days in high school physics, so I could be way off base.

I wish I could give you an experienced view, and I certainly can't weigh in on the legal ramifications polyglot mentioned, but if Google is to be trusted, you should be physically able to do this. (Just don't track me down if you blow something up ;-)
posted by SuperNova at 12:47 AM on September 26, 2005

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