/ Home & Energy, Technology

Your landline is still a lifeline

We had a big response when we asked if you still use your landline. It turns out that many of you would be lost without yours – even some who’d rather use a mobile.

John Ward is among those who uses a landline not his mobile when he needs to make calls and is happy to otherwise rely on other, slower ways to communicate:

‘Nearly all the calls I make are by landline, but the total number is quite low. I have a mobile phone but it’s usually in a jacket pocket somewhere and it’s for the occasional communication when out and about – usually by text. I still send handwritten and typed letters. Very few communications in my life are urgent I am pleased to say.’

Can’t get a signal

But lots of people do like to be able to make contact in a hurry, which is why poor coverage can be such a disadvantage for mobile phone users.

Alan explained it’s not just a problem in very rural areas:

‘Those of us living in the countryside (less than four miles outside of a town) have to suffer the problems of totally rubbish broadband speeds and also virtually nil mobile phone (unless you want to hang out of the window waving your mobile around). So for millions of us the landline is invaluable and will be for a long time yet as the telecoms industry is only interested in urban areas.’

Power cuts make a landline essential for Rosalind Nelson:

‘I live in a rural area with overhead phone and electricity lines. We get constant power cuts because of lack of investment by the power company so when it goes off our cordless phone doesn’t work so we have a corded one, too. We both have mobiles but the coverage in our area is iffy to say the least, so we’d never get rid of our landline. If we had no landline and couldn’t get a signal with our mobile, we’d be left with nowhere to go as we also have no neighbours and are miles from the village.’

Mobiles aren’t always user-friendly

Mobiles can be handy, but Ann Brown doesn’t find them as easy to use as a trusty landline phone:

‘I find the corded landline more comfortable to hold; mobiles and cordless phones tend to slip up the side of my head and I can’t hear properly. To explain, I am 85!’

David Seale has tried to get used to mobiles a number of times:

‘I’ve tried and tried. I can switch it on after three or four attempts. It can take me about ten minutes to make a call on a mobile. I now just keep one in the car for emergencies.’

Quality is key

Some of you simply find it’s nicer making a call on the landline, including JC:

‘Sometimes the mobile signal is so bad, I have to call back on the landline.’

Richjenn14 finds mobile phone calls too unreliable:

‘For those of us who want to make reliable calls, mobile is a constant nuisance, and the signal seems to be getting worse rather than better.’

How often do you use your landline?

It’s clear that many of you still use a landline – as is shown by the results of our poll. Of the 2,350 people who voted, 40% said they used their landline at least once a day, while 33% used it a few times a week. Just 6% of people rarely use their landline and only 2% don’t even have one.

Not everyone needs a landline

A few of you did feel you could happily get by without a landline, such as Wimbledon:

‘I have a landline for broadband internet. Otherwise no use for it. Mobile package has plenty of minutes and data included. Phone is on you all the time and no need to remember any numbers. Annoying how line rental keeps on climbing.’

Peter Fisher explained he doesn’t need to use a mobile:

‘Most of my calls are over Facebook messenger or Skype… I pay £30 a year and calls to UK landlines over Skype cost no more. I also use mobile Voip, add some money and calls to UK landlines are free. Landlines are expensive for calls, as are mobile phones. It would be good if one could have a data connection only, no calls. Facebook calls are the easiest. Just press a blue phone in the app!’

Are you living landline-free, or is your local mobile signal too shaky to depend on?

Ian says:
25 July 2016

More work needs to be done to get people on the right call plan. Almost every time you see someone complaining about the high cost of calling customer services for a retailer or passenger transport company, their bank or insurer or a government department or public service on an 01, 02 or 03 number you are more than likely looking at someone who is on the wrong call plan for their needs.

Landline providers have botched their marketing. In order to give a low “headline” price, they promote unsuitable deals that have inclusive Weekend calls but which expose callers to call charges of around 19p per call plus around 11p per minute when they use their phone to call 01, 02 and 03 numbers during the week. Using the phone for just a few minutes per week on these deals can work out very expensive. For most people this is entirely the wrong call plan. Most people will save money by having a deal with Anytime inclusive calls, yet this isn’t usually the most prominent offering.

BT offers an unlimited number of anytime calls (as long as each call is less than 60 minutes long) to geographic numbers starting 01 and 02 and non-geographic numbers starting 03 for around £8 per month. TalkTalk charges a similar amount for the same sort of deal. Sky also charges a similar amount but their deal also includes calls to mobile numbers starting 071-075 and 077-079. TalkTalk offers an add-on or ‘boost’ giving unlimited calls to mobile numbers for around £5 per month. Virgin has a deal with inclusive calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers and a more expensive deal that also includes calls to mobile numbers and selected international destinations.

Once you have one of these Anytime Unlimited deals you can make as many calls as you like to 01, 02 and 03 numbers (and perhaps mobile numbers too, if you get the right deal) at any time of the day or night without incurring further call charges. If you can completely avoid calling premium rate numbers starting 070, 084, 087, 09 and 118 there will be nothing further to pay each month. Once all of this becomes widespread knowledge the number of complaints about rip-off call charges should decline.

It should now be possible to completely avoid calling 084 and 087 numbers. Customer services, financial services, public services and healthcare services are no longer allowed to use these numbers. There are a few organisations that have not complied but they are now very much in the minority. Check official websites for the new numbers starting 01, 02, 03 or 080. If you really do have to call a premium rate number, using your landline will cost around 34p per minute less than using your mobile (Access Charge of around 11p per minute from a landline compared to around 45p per minute from a mobile).

Some landline providers still offer inclusive calls to premium rate numbers starting 0845 and/or 0870. These deals will, rightly, gradually disappear over time as the true nature of these calls becomes apparent.

I use John Lewis broadband with anytime calls. The options for a call package – weekend or anytime – are equally prominent and clear on their website. Are you saying that other providers are concealing their anytime packages? Or is it that subscribers don’t think they will be worthwhile?

Ian says:
25 July 2016

The anytime deals are not exactly ‘hidden’, just usually not the first one on the page on the provider’s website. They are the deals that most people actually need.

When broadband deals are advertised on TV the price is for a deal that includes only Weekend calls. The cost with Anytime calls isn’t usually mentioned.

When junk mail drops through the door advertising ‘Phone and Broadband’ or ‘Phone, Broadband and TV’, the deal offered includes only Weekend calls. The Anytime deal isn’t usually mentioned.

Which? describes deals with Weekend calls as ‘standard’ and doesn’t mention Anytime deals.

There is an unwarranted perception that Anytime deals are only for ‘high users’. This is very very far from the case. The Anytime deal is the cheaper option at, for example, just three calls, each four and a bit minutes long, per week.

Ian says:
25 July 2016

As if on cue, PlusNet has today announced that from 1 September 2016, deals with inclusive calls will also include calls to mobile numbers starting 071-075 and 077-079. This is in addition to including calls to geographic numbers starting 01 and 02 and non-geographic numbers starting 03.

Ofcom’s reforms mean that calls to mobile numbers should no longer cost any more than calls to geographic numbers. Providers are gradually implementing that, having run out of excuses for not doing so.

On the negative side, PlusNet will continue to include calls to premium numbers starting 0845 and 0870, but I can’t see that lasting much longer. Now that we have the clarity that the called party imposes an additional Service Charge on these calls, there is no reason for these calls to count towards inclusive allowances.

You call a number where you’re told that ‘calls cost 13p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge’ but your phone provider says these calls are ‘inclusive’ and you’ll not pay a per-minute rate when calling them. If the caller isn’t paying the 13p per minute Service Charge to the called party, then someone else is. Inclusivity of calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers makes the pricing arrangements opaque and hides the fact the caller is, effectively, being subsidised by other callers who do not call these numbers. That practice cannot continue for much longer. TalkTalk and others have already ceased including these calls.

Good information Ian. And clearly stated to!

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Ian says:
26 July 2016

When a call is made to a number registered with a different telephone provider, the caller’s telephone provider has to pay a termination fee to that other provider to compensate them for delivering the call to their customer. This is why we do not pay for incoming calls.

This termination fee varies depending on the prefix of the number being called. It can be:
– up to 0.21p per minute (12.6p per hour) for calls to 01 and 02 numbers,
– up to 0.49p per minute (29.4p per hour) for calls to 071-075 and 077-079 numbers,
– up to 0.56p per minute (33.6p per hour) for calls to 03 numbers.
This allows inclusive deals to have thousands of minutes of inclusive calls to these numbers for only a few pounds per month.

When a call is made to a number starting 084, 087 or 09 the termination fee is very much higher and is separately declared as the Service Charge. It can be:
– up to 7p per minute (£4.20 per hour) for 084 numbers,
– up to 13p per minute (£7.80 per hour) for 087 numbers,
– up to £3.60 per minute (£216 per hour) for 09 numbers.
The Service Charge pays for the provision of a premium service paid for as the call is being made.

If a landline or mobile provider offers inclusive calls to 0845 or 0870 numbers, it takes only a few calls for the amount being paid out to the called party and their telecoms provider to exceed the amount the caller paid for the inclusive call plan. Once that point is reached, other callers are subsidising the Service Charge that is being paid out to the organisation that was called.

We now have the understanding that the Service Charge is payment for the provision of a premium rate service, paid for as the call is being made. Given this fact, it is only right and proper that the caller that made use of the chargeable service pays in full the Service Charge that was incurred during that call. For these reasons, calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers should NOT be inclusive within standard call plan allowances.

My biggest disappointment with the landline phone is the cost of calls to mobiles. Most of my calls are to my own mobile, trying to find where I have left it, and I don’t let these connect. My tariff provides inclusive calls to mobiles at the weekend but I am so accustomed to calling mobiles from my mobile that I rarely use the landline.

On the other hand, I encourage everyone to call my landline number. There is always a landline handset nearby whereas the mobile is wherever it was last used or on charge.

Ian says:
26 July 2016

Ofcom’s reforms over the last few years mean that calling a mobile number starting 071-075 or 077-079 should cost no more than calling a landline number starting 01 or 02 or non-geographic number starting 03. As Ofcom squeezes mobile termination rates, landline providers are running out of excuses on this. Consumer awareness remains low.

Among the largest providers, BT is now very much the odd one out in not having a deal with inclusive calls to mobile numbers. Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have already addressed the issue is various ways. Expect this anomoly to be rectified by BT later this year, especially given the forthcoming PlusNet changes effective 1 September 2016.

I think the biggest cost to the homephone is the landline monthly charge which is creeping up and up even though people are using their landlines less and less these days’. I use to pay the VLR [value line rental] which initially was a good saving but that has gone up from around £140 to nearer £200 there is no longer very little value savings in it so hence I stopped. My contract comes to an end in December so I will be looking around for new customer/promotion deals to reduce my landline monthly costs.

The landline rental increases to maintain the revenue necessary to keep the phone network running because landline phone-call-minutes are decreasing, as is its revenue therefore. However, domestic landline minutes were still 80 billion in 2014, compared with around 130 billion for mobiles. And the number of domestic landlines increased from 23 to 23.5 million.

I suppose I see the cost of a landline as embedded in the overall running expenses of the house as they have been for fifty years along with the rates/council tax, insurance, maintenance and all the other utilities. I am not unaware of its cost and keep a keen eye on it along with gas, electricity and water charges. Personally I feel it gives good value and that there are worse things to worry about. Being able to make and receive calls with high reliability, take messages, carry broadband, call emergency services without signal concerns, and provide various other dialled services comes at a price but is a higher priority than various other expenditures. It is also instantly available to use for anyone in the house at any time without having to think where it is and whether it is charged up.

I would ditch my landline if I could, but its a requirement to have it for my Plusnet broadband. My household all use our mobiles for all calls (dont need to make many these days as all online) so we have ditched all call plans on the landline to minimise the cost to just the line rental. I think of it as the hidden extra cost of broadband.
We rarely get calls on the landline anymore (registered with TPS helps), so the phones around the house just take up space and a little electricity.

I am in post code KT12 and my mobile doesn’t work in certain parts of the house. Definitely could not do without a landline if my mother needed to ring me in an emergency.

Anyone with a n alarm system linked to a central station needs a land line. It is vital for security.

A landline is essential for alarm systems with a direct link to a central station. I only take incoming calls on my landline as my mobile is off when I’m at home.

We certainly use our landline phone. We have the BT Anytime free call option which excludes obvious numbers such as mobile etc. and the highest additional amount we’ve paid is just over £2. We all have mobiles but even though there are masts nearby, being with Vodafone we’re lucky to get an indoor signal, indeed even outdoors locally is no guarantee! We bought a Vodafone box that plugs into our router but it makes little or no difference with no useful help from Vodafone. So for us a landline phone is a must.

Ian says:
30 July 2016

BT is rapidly becoming the odd one out in not offering inclusive calls to mobile numbers from landlines.

Expect this to change, perhaps later this year.

PlusNet will shortly have, and Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media already have, deals with inclusive calls to mobile numbers.

Ofcom has steadily removed any and all excuses used by providers for being able to charge more for calls to mobile numbers than for calls to geographic numbers.

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It is not cheap to call mobile numbers from landlines, whereas the the cost of calling mobiles is included in mobile tariffs. I am not surprised that many people have ditched their landline and more would do so if it was not needed for broadband. Making calls to mobiles inclusive in landline tariffs will help retain customers.

Ian says:
1 August 2016

PlusNet will shortly have, and Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media already have, deals with inclusive calls to mobile numbers. BT is now very much looking like the odd one out.

Ofcom has steadily removed any and all excuses used by providers for being able to charge more for calls to mobile numbers than for calls to geographic numbers. BT cannot resist.

Living in Manchester I have no service or signal problems. Nigh on 100% of landline calls I received were from nuisance callers. I used to use the landline for e.g. 0800 numbers, but now they are included in my mobile plan the landline is redundant, so I have unplugged it. Unfortunately I still have to pay (Virgin) for the landline because cancelling it results in a commensurate increase in my broadband/tv package. It’s like money for old rope.

I don’t suppose the signal’s all that good with old rope so I am hoping that what you are paying for is fibre optic cable to your home. The fact that it can also carry telecom traffic hardly increases the cost of providing your broadband and TV services.

Paul Conway says:
6 August 2016

I have to have a land line because it is part of my broadband deal with Virgin Media.

I find the cost of land line calls via Virgin Media utterly shocking. They have raised them to match the cost of pay-as-you-go mobile calls. Except that, at the same time, those got cheaper. On Three’s 1-2-3 tariff I can make mobile calls for 3 p/min whereas on Virgin Media (except at weekends) it is around 12 p/min.

So during the week I use a low-cost call service called Call18866 (see their web site). They require an 11-digit prefix, which I programmed into one of the buttons on my desk phone. I then get calls for 1p/min.

Meanwhile if I am sitting with my tablet and want to make a call I can use an app called MobileVoip that lets me make calls for 2 p/min. Saves getting out of my comfy chair.

If I could avoid paying for my land line, I would be tempted, however it has the benefit of reliability, which is essential for emergency calls. Yesterday I was expecting an important call on my mobile but discovered I had forgotten to charge it, ie I was caught out. Easily done. Sometimes I have accidentally left it in the car. A previous mobile malfunctioned and lost all my contacts.

I have done the research and if I include Call18866 and MobileVoip and Skype I have quite a range of calling methods before even using either a land line or mobile phone. This variety is very useful.

Incidentally my expenditure on Three’s 1-2-3 tariff is about £2-3 per month, because I am not part of the young generation that is inseparable from mobiles and Facebook. and I buy my phones outright rather than on contract, so I get what I want.

I have been with Vodafone for many years now but I cannot get a signal from my home so I only use it for emergencies when I take my car out. It is never left switched on!

Ofcom has today announced a review of landline rental prices in view of concerns that people may not be getting value for money. It has said that landline prices have risen by up to 41% in real terms since 2010, while wholesale prices have fallen by a quarter. Ofcom is concerned that the rise in rental prices particularly affects those dependent on landlines, such as the elderly and vulnerable customers, who rely on their landline and are less likely to change provider.

At the end of 2014 there were 25.5 million home landlines. This rose slightly at the end of 2015 to 25.6 million. These have to be paid for – the exchanges, lines and all the support necessary – by someone. Hiding landline charges in bundles seems totally contrary to the need for transparency, just like hiding all the costs in energy bills. The costs are still there. I like to know what my money is paying for, just like council tax.

There seems not a lot of difference in landline charges if they are disclosed, so shopping around may not produce great benefits? Where there are vulnerable and essential users – for medical, housebound, for example – help should be given to fund what to them is an essential lifeline.

There is some interesting commentary on this review on the Ofcom website including a graph that tracks the prices charged by the main landline operators and the wholesale cost of landline provision. Not only are the rentals charged by the Big Five [BT, Virgin Media, Talk Talk, Sky and the Post Office] converging at just under £19 per month, but the gap between the rental and the £10 per month cost of provision is continuing to widen as costs fall but prices climb.

The companies are clearly not attempting to compete on price any more and are imposing unjustified hardship on a significant customer segment in the interests of higher profits.

Anne HD says:
1 June 2018

The main reason I keep the landline is that in a crisis mobiles don’t work. For example, when New Orleans was flooded you could only call people on a landline. Similarly, when we had the bombed bus in London you could not use landlines. I suppose the system is taken over by the emergency services.

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