Slow Fax Transmissions

By Elizabeth Mott

Slow fax transmissions can stem from causes at both ends of the process.
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Keeping a working fax machine in your company's machine room may seem old fashioned in a 21st-century office, but this hard-working, time-tested technology provides the only means of transmitting some kinds of documents quickly to remote recipients. If your fax speed seems slow, your symptoms may reveal problems with anything from telephone lines to page content. While you're troubleshooting, look at the receiving as well as the sending end of your transmissions for potential causes of interference with normal fax behavior.

Line Noise

If the phone line to which you've connected your fax machine provides a poor-quality connection because of static, background hum, squealing sounds or uneven audio levels, these defects can interfere with fax transmissions. Line quality helps determine the transmission speed that your machine can use in communicating with another device, with slower speeds providing the fallback position for less-audible connections. If the noise becomes exceptionally bad, the receiving device interprets it as a sign that the call comes from something other than a fax machine, resulting in a dropped connection. Bad wiring, stormy weather, electrical or radio-frequency interference, and the audio artifacts of a DSL connection can contribute to reduced speed in response to noise. If your fax shares a line with DSL-based broadband service and you're using the DSL filter that came from your phone company, replacing the filter with one you purchase can improve performance.

Complex Page Content

When your fax machine needs to digitize large amounts of type, complex graphics, photos and other page content that covers a substantial amount of surface area on the sheets you're faxing, the pages you transmit may take longer to send than material with less information printed on it. If you stand next to your fax machine while it sends a page that starts with light text and transitions to a large photo, you can hear the machine slow down as it reaches the image. When the complex content in a document proves irrelevant to the receiving party, you can skip unnecessary pages or print a just-for-faxing version with the images omitted.

Equipment Speed

Even on a current-generation fax machine set to use its fastest transmission speed, your fax speed will drop to match the receiving machine's capabilities. Fax machines can offer lasting performance, so the device on the other end of your transmission may come from an older, slower generation of the technology. If you're sending a lengthy document that you can provide in PDF form as an email attachment, consider alternatives to fax transmission when the receiving machine can't keep up.

Reception Problems

Premium phone-line features can interfere with the ability to receive faxes. For example, the call waiting signal tone can disrupt the connection, as can the presence of voice mail or an answering machine on the same line as the fax machine. A fax machine that shares a line with numerous other devices and long connecting cords can wind up with a signal that drops below the threshold at which it can receive faxes properly. Additionally, transitory line-quality defects from thunderstorm activity or construction can interfere with reception. If the receiving machine uses a Voice over Internet Protocol connection, on which phone calls and faxes run on part of the bandwidth from broadband Internet service, the device must be adjusted to run at slower speeds to compensate for the way VoIP transmits call data.