Calling Features: Call Waiting

Call Waiting: What is it?

If your CenturyLink phone services include call waiting, then you don't have to worry about missing important calls.

When a call comes in while you're on the phone, a special tone gently alerts you that someone else is calling. You can then place your conversation on hold and find out who is calling.

By switching back and forth between calls, you can manage up to two conversations simultaneously.  Should you receive a third call while switching between two callers, your third caller will either:

Switching Between Calls

When you hear the call waiting tone, you have an exciting choice to make:

  1. End the conversation and answer the waiting call. Just hang up and the telephone will ring with the second caller.
  2. Place your conversation on hold and answer the waiting call. Quickly press and release the switchhook/"hang up" button or FLASH key to put your conversation on hold and answer the second call. You can alternate between the two calls by pressing and releasing the switchhook or FLASH key. Both conversations will remain private; they won't be able to hear each other. To end one of the calls, simply hang up. The phone will ring. Pick it up and continue talking to the remaining caller.
  3. Ignore the call waiting tone. After a short time, the second call will be sent to your voice mail or forwarded to another number if those services are activated or they will hear a total of nine rings before an automated message requests that they try back later.  Continue your conversation.


That covers the most common situations. Here are some more unusual scenarios:

  1. Don't have voice mail or the Call Forwarding No Answer calling feature? With those features, a caller is routed elsewhere after a certain number of rings. If those services don't exist on your account, the call waiting tone will sound twice, and then stop.
  2. What happens if one of your callers hangs up? No need to worry; you'll be automatically connected to the other call after a couple seconds.
  3. Say you want to have a single conversation with both callers. Then you want to learn about 3-Way Calling.

Speaking of 3 Way Calling, call waiting won't work when you're in a 3-way call. Callers will hear a busy signal, or be routed to voicemail or an alternate number, if set up.

Turn off call waiting (and start it up again)

You can temporarily suspend call waiting when you're making a call you don't want to be interrupted. Anyone who calls while your call waiting is suspended will get a busy signal or be routed to voice mail or an alternate number, if those services are set up.

Call waiting will automatically resume as soon as you hang up from your call.

To temporarily turn off call waiting before placing a call:

  1. Listen for a dial tone and press
  2. Listen for three short tones, then a regular dial tone
  3. Dial the telephone number.

To temporarily turn off call waiting during a call:

  1. Press and release the switchhook/"hang up" or FLASH key to put your call on hold,
  2. Listen for three brief tones and a normal dial tone, then press
  3. Press and release the switchhook/"hang up" or FLASH key again to continue your original call without call waiting interruptions.

Note: In some areas, you can only temporarily turn off call waiting before placing a call. If you try to use it during a call, you will hear a rapid busy signal.

To add or change the calling features on your account, chat with us.

Curious why the button to switch to your other caller is named FLASH?

Back when all telephone calls were managed by operators, a customer could rapidly tap the phone hook down and a light would flash on the switchboard to get the operator's attention. When telephony was automated in the 1960s, phones were built with a light that would flash to get the customer's attention. These days, many phones are cordless and no longer have the light, but people still call the button FLASH, because that was the original indication that attention was needed.

A phone that doesn't have a FLASH button, like classic "princess" models, rotary, or most TrimlineŽ phones, use the button or hook located where the phone receiver rests in its cradle. Just tap it down rapidly once.

What's it like for the person calling you?

The call waiting tone you hear represents two rings heard by the caller. After the second call waiting tone, which is the fourth phone ring heard by the incoming caller, they will continue to hear the phone ring as you continue your conversation. If the caller doesn't hang up the phone, they will hear a total of nine rings before an automated message will request that they try back later.