/ Technology

Why pay for line rental when you only use broadband?

Phone line cut

Why should we have to pay for a service we’re not using? It seems a little unfair to say the least, and for many, a landline phone falls into this category. If you only use broadband, why must you pay for line rental?

The landline is dead. Even if you don’t quite believe that, you have to admit it’s definitely on the wane. Not only are 15% of households mobile-only, many of the others probably only have a landline for their broadband connection. And that’s despite them hardly ever picking up the phone (maybe to the odd nuisance call!)

In my house of five we have a landline that comes with our broadband bundle, but I honestly can’t remember the last time anyone actually used it to make a call. On the rare occasion it rings, no-one bothers to pick it up as we know it’ll likely be a marketing attack. So why do we have to pay for it?

What if you have fibre optic broadband?

Up until now broadband providers could use the excuse that you need the phone line for the broadband to run down. But there’s a gaping hole in this argument if you have fibre broadband, rather than you’re old-school ADSL copper line.

Which? Convo’s very own Patrick Steen was recently offered an upgrade to fibre optic broadband by BT, still the largest broadband provider in the UK. He started to ask some probing questions. Did a new line need to be installed for fibre optic broadband? BT’s call handler answered ‘yes’. When he asked whether this meant his phone calls would go through this new line, they needed to do some checking. Eventually (apparently it’s not a common question) they said ‘no – all phone calls would go through the existing copper line’.

Patrick then explained that he wouldn’t be making any calls and would only be using the broadband. That meant he would be paying line rental for a copper line he wouldn’t be using in order to use broadband on his fibre optic line. When he asked why he should have to pay line rental, BT’s call handler replied with ‘that’s just how it works – we have to charge line rental’.

I don’t want to pick on BT. This argument would apply to any broadband provider in the same situation. You have to pay for line rental if you want broadband, whether it’s a copper line or a fibre optic one.

The way we use our landlines and make our calls has changed beyond recognition in the past decade – so perhaps the way line rental is charged for broadband should change too? And, in some cases, maybe the charge should be dropped altogether.

Mark Shuttleworth says:
18 April 2013

Of course, what I’m waiting for is for fibre to go cheap when its used by more people… like 12 GBP per month for 80Mb maybe.

Of course, ADSL would be dirt cheap (like £3 per month) if not for the line rental…
In the UK, fibre is actually cheaper than ADSL, just make sure ur not paying line rental (Virgin is the only one I know of that isn’t totally lame… if someone cheaper appears, maybe I will switch later)

I see so many people not knowing these things… so I posted this info here. Hope it will help some people.

Mark Shuttleworth says:
18 April 2013

one more thing,

you can also use sipgate (or any SIP provider) on your smartphone, if you have wifi connection.

Search 3cx (its available for android/apple, but not windows phone yet).
Use 3cx on your smartphone to make outgoing calls, and only make outgoing calls from your mobile number when you dont have a wifi connection and you REALLY need to make a call…
but people can still call your mobile number (it costs them not you).

This method isnt well known in the UK… but its popular in the rest of EU and also USA.
Sometimes I have heard it also called “open end calling”.

Google the hell out of it.

I’m trying to spread awareness about this… this is good for people, and it is a stake in the heart of crooked phone companies like BT/talktalk with their overpriced prices..

KK says:
7 May 2013

Why pay for a line rental? Well, setting aside the way service providers tie you into package rates, in theory the quality and reliability should be better. However, with Virgin Media, I found neither to be true. Indeed, Virgin Media seem to think that actually having a phone number associated with your landline is not important.

After two years with Virgin Media, I found out that the latest problems we have had with their landline service is because they changed our phone number without either consulting or informing us! Furthermore, they refuse to change it back.

How did I find out? An increasing number of people were emailing me or calling my mobile saying that our home number was out of service. And, then, when I was in the hospital, I found I couldn’t complete a call home.

So why have they done this? They wanted to give the number to a business.

terry says:
6 June 2015

How has your number been giving to a business if it’s out of service?

KK was saying that their home number had been given to someone else. That why KK’s number was out of service.

I am finding it hard to credit the stance of VirginMedia. I assume you have complained to the regulator?

KK says:
7 May 2013

Ofcom makes very clear that Virgin must port my number to a new provider if I switch. The logical inference is that Virgin simply cannot take it away from me at will. I think Virgin relies upon breaking down the customers’ will to fight for their rights.

The amazing thing is that there seems to be no direct way to complain to Ofcom!

Below is taken from the Ofcom website (http://ask.ofcom.org.uk/help/telephone/switching_provider — retrieved 7 May 2013)

At Ofcom we fully understand that your phone number is important to you.

If you choose to change providers, you want to keep that number and avoid any hassle for friends and family.

If you’re a business, your customers will have your number in their phones and systems, and any change can also be very costly.

So if you’re staying at the same address and your number is active, your current provider must allow it to be transferred to a new phone company.

martin says:
25 February 2014

The vast majority of (non business) telephone calls are made from mobiles. Of course this dose not mean the landline is dead as a significant number of calls are still made this way. Telephone providers have had to provide cheap call plans to remain competitive with mobile providers.

However ” Service Providers” know the majority of you dont want or really need a landline but they know you want Broadband. Soooooo you sell broadband and still charge line rental (ASDL or fibre) thus protecting existing revenue stream with the bonus of charging you extra for the broadband which uses the same line as your phone (ASDL) Hope that made sense…but basically your being screwed!

Hyperoptic bring their fibre optic cable directly to your modem, no part of their connection runs on BT copper, yet they still charge £16 per month for a landline. Of course they want you to take the landline, the call charges are much higher than using a mobile.

Even if you opt for their broadband only service they slap on a £40 connection charge so the costs for broadband only or broadband plus phone line are identical.

Hyperoptic 100Mb Service:

Broadband & Phone = £38:00 p/m (no connection fee)
Broadband Only = £35:00 p/m (+ £40 connection fee)

I take their broadband plus phone service but NEVER use the landline to make calls, which I guess is the whole point of this thread, is this fair or are we playing in a rigged game.

The key thing here is what you said above: “Hyperoptic bring THEIR fibre optic cable…”. So the line rental they’re charging is presumably going towards paying for their infrastructure. I don’t think that’s unfair.

Having a landline means I haven’t had to make a call on my mobile phone for months. The mobile is PAYG and I have never quite understood why the majority of people do everything the other way round.

Maybe you never leave the house ?

The “mobile phone” is a device for just that.. Leaving the house and moving around whilst communicating to friends, family and colleagues.

In this day and age who wants to be limited to only conversing with people from afar whilst in and around the house 🙁

Also, if that is the case where by you do not phone people out the house why do you have a “mobile phone” absurd really!!

Anyway back to topic, which is… Why pay for a landline when you do not use it and only have it for broadband! The answer is you simple shouldn’t have to pay for it. Especially if you’re on fiber.

Many people have mobiles mainly for urgent or emergency use, Carl.

With both broadband and a landline phone, there are costs that are not related to usage, which is why the there is an additional line rental. Some of these costs are relevant to both the phone and broadband (e.g. the cable), some relate to the phone (the exchange) and some to the broadband service (the servers). I would like to see a lower line rental for those who just use broadband and those that just use the phone, compared with the charge for users of both services. It might be better to just have the fixed costs included in both the broadband and phone tariffs and to give users of both services a discount.

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As was said earlier, if you have to have a phone number to access a broadband service then you have the opportunity to at least receive incoming calls, thus using the exchange equipment. If there is a way of ensuring you never use the phone line then a broadband-only rental would make sense. Otherwise the phone service would be open to abuse. (If only we were all honest life would be so much easier!)

Are you sure this is the case, Malcolm? Where I worked, corridor phones allowed local and emergency calls and office phones offered either national or international access and ones not needed were blocked. That was a small switchboard and if BT cannot block phone calls while allowing the line to be used for broadband, I will be very surprised.

No, I’m not sure. i was asking the question. Can BT block all calls – outgoing and incoming?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks Duncan, but are you certain that the line could still be used for broadband when incoming and outgoing calls are blocked?

Back in the days of dial phones and pulse dialling, we had a corridor phone restricted to local or internal calls but I was tipped off that overseas postgrads from another department were forcing the dial back and managing to make international calls in the evening. I put an end to this by requesting one of these new-fangled press button phones.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Last year the area in which I live suffered a major power failure. This, of course, meant that all of my fancy hi-tech stuff became as useful as a chocolate teapot. I was very pleased to have available a good old fashioned land line together with a good old fashioned telephone so I was able to contact the power company to find out what was going on. It also meant that I had the comfort of being able to make emergency calls if necessary. Do without a land line? No way!

paul says:
8 May 2014

Well isn’t this just a load of bull c*** first time ever I’ve heard about a mandatory charge for a damn landline which is not used anywhere at all. Not only UK network providers are outdated in current WiFi tech but they charge people for something that is not even needed to provide the product … Of course that c*** should be protested against and even should be taken to some sort of court for hidden imaginary fees for nothing… Cmon people think for once and time those companies the finger.

Peter says:
5 July 2014

Charging for my phone line something I paid for 20 years ago seems to me to be cheeky to say the least . Will they charge me for my parking space attached to the house or the driveway to the house next. Diabolical to say the least. How can they charge for the phone line yet not for the mains power cable or pipe bringing in water … what a farce !!

The telephone poles need replacing every 70-90 years – providing they do not get knocked down by a lorry or the line breaks under accumulated ice. I believe the copper is replaced slightly more frequently. I am not quite sure who should pay the infrastructure cost as opposed to the usage costs.

The idea of linking phone usage to higher fees to cover the infrastructure costs just means those who do not use the landline can have the facility of a landline connection for free.

you do pay for your mains power through your energy bills. in fact over a third of your bill goes towards transmission.

“How can they charge for the phone line yet not for the mains power cable or pipe bringing in water”

For god’s sake, don’t give them any ideas!!

Me too, having the same thought about land lines. its gets too costly at the mo and i hardly make any Phone calls at all. i was with BT before until they changed their line rental rules/contract. As far i know no matter what broadband providers you have,you will always still pay for land lines (broandband providver pays land land to BT), even if it fibre optics. so for 3 reasons that i cant really prove , 1) age old law that we used to have when paying like rates, and telephone was not included so hence the landline. 2) BT wouldnt exist if landline was scrapped at the old times,i.e. phones boxes etc, but times have changed and landlines still there. 3) since the goverment gave the contract to roll out for widespread broadband, though never did fullfill it as it ran out of cash and got more financial from government to complete it but still not wide spread, though done slowly as it was taking the interest of the financial. however at the same time BT has increased the cost of land lines, thus with all the interest from goverment financial, landlines rental, they started their own media (TV), and now taking over mobile phones.

One big Problem, why didnt the goverment put a cap on Landlines, even better scrap it. why didnt ofcom do anything about it. its age old rules of landlines that no one dared to argue within the goverment unless we public do so. if the government do scrap tv licence, why not BT landlines. BT is a rip off. and no matter what service provider you have the landlines still go to BT via them.

PS if you can get TV/Sky via ariel or dish, why cant we have broadband and phone via that, so no more landlines. its possible, i know in my heart.

DSB says:
27 June 2014

I spoke to Ofcom about the line rental charged by EE, BT, talk talk etc. Apparently line rental is paid to Open Reach (BT) even for using fibre optic broadband. It seems EE also uses open reach’s fibre network and hence need to pay line rental for using the broadband. However Virgin has their own fibre network in many places. Hence you can get broadband packages without line rental if your area is covered by virgin’s own fibre network. if virgin do not have fibre network then you will end up paying line rental for the packages as they rent open reach’s line.

Having said that I am not sure if the amount of line rental charged by these companies is fair and am not sure if they are monitered.

Living in a village does seem to restrict choice. No fibre net so you rely on Open reach for your line and loop not unbundled there is a restriction on who provides your B band and its speed. Have bundle of sorts that does give me unrestricted bb, an free call pack and caller display. (at £29 / month) How does this compare to the city types with a package?

brian says:
27 November 2014

Like thousands of people who live in East Yorkshire we are held to ransom by our local provider KC ( Kingston Communications) which is unique due to the fact we cannot access anyother provider.Even Sky cannot intrude on this monopoly.We need a which campaign to high-light our problem.When comparisons are shown on costs KC is never shown.We need competition in this area as we have a second rate service.

What does the lady mean “paying for something she is not using.”

A suggestion to save money: unplug the landline and ask BT to take it out then.
Oh, wait a minute: the broadband’s not working mum, I can’t get on Facebook.

Surprised to read such nonsense in Which. I’m old enough to remember when Which was a serious magazine.

Roger – Which has not written any nonsense at all. When I moved home recently, the vendor’s estate agents asked me whether I wanted to take over the existing BT line; I replied no. Instead I now have a one gigabit broadband connection from Hyperoptic without a telephone line, on which I enjoy downstream and upstream bandwidth of around 800Mbps to 900Mbps. Although Hyperoptic offers an optional telephone line that runs over its broadband connection for an additional charge, I chose not to take it. For incoming calls I instead have a virtual 020 number from Flextel, which I receive via VOIPtalk, all for free. For outgoing calls I instead use FreeVoipDeal which costs me €12 every 120 days for unlimited calls to fixed lines in most industrialised countries. I can still make emergency calls on my mobile.

The days of a physical landline are numbered. It’s high time that we move away from carrying the internet over archaic copper telephone lines and instead carry telephone lines over the internet. Fibre should be the norm, not the exception.

Given the tiny proportion of UK homes that have fibre anywhere nearer than the green cabinet round the corner this is a viable solution only for a tiny number of people – and also those who have the wherewithal to cough up the £200 a month for the installation and £60 a month for the Gigabit broadband. Interesting that you chose to take the broadband without the phone which is £10 a month MORE than broadband with phone so the £12.50 a month for phone with evening and weekend calls included would have cost only £2.50 a month more than broadband only. And then you would have been able to make emergency calls even when the mobile network was unavailable. One question – do you use your mobile for making calls to non-industrialised countries – wherever and whatever they might be?

My point is that investment needs to be made in building FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) infrastructure across the UK instead of investing further in defunct technologies like FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) which still use archaic copper wires. In having a gigabit connection, I shouldn’t be the exception but the norm. Look at countries like South Korea for example.

Your observation is correct that Hyperoptic’s headline prices mean that taking a landline costs only £2.50/month more. However, I managed to get a better deal than the headline prices. In any case, a landline isn’t even worth £2.50/month to me; I just don’t need one.

And for calls to chargeable destinations (e.g. mobiles even in most industrialised countries), I can use my credit with FreeVoipDeal. When I pay €12 every 120 days, I’m actually adding credit; the 120 days of free calls are a benefit of adding credit. Consequently I end up with lots of credit that I don’t use much.

I don’t use the landline telephone either. I treat the landline charge simply as a marketing trick, so that the ISPs can split the cost of broadband so that they can advertise “Broadband for £1.99 a month!!!” in big, bold colours, and “(plus landline cost)” in small print, instead of having to say “Broadband for £20.98 a month.” Perhaps the answer is to complain to the ASA and petition to force all ISPs to advertise the total cost of broadband, or at least display the landline cost as prominently as the broadband “surcharge” (I prefer to call it a broadband surcharge rather than a broadband cost, as it is a surcharge on top of the landline if you want to use broadband).

Another point: I think one of the major reasons landline use has declined so dramatically is that people buy expensive smartphone contracts simply because they want a modern decently-specced device – not because they want to make lots of calls on their mobiles; yet those contracts include more packaged airtime minutes than most people can use. If SIM-free prices were more reasonable, more people might buy the smartphones outright and use them with a cheap pay-as-you-go service (possibly with some bundled data and texts); then they might use the landline more, as it would be cheaper.

Clint – it is usually cheaper to buy mobile phones outright and get a SIM-only contract. This is definitely the case with iPhones and is the way that I obtain my iPhone and service.

I do agree with you that we need to allow consumers to pay a reasonable price for pay-as-you-go services without having to buy bundles. Imagine if we had to buy electricity and gas in monthly bundles whereby incomplete usage of the bundle would result in wastage and usage beyond the bundle would result in hefty surcharges. This seems to be tolerated with mobile phone service and to some extent landlines as well, but not tolerated with energy. Currently only Three charges a reasonable price for pay-as-you-go services – 3p/min, 2p/text and 1p/MB. Other PAYG services are charged at 10 to 20 times the going price.

If anyone is wondering why an almost two-year-old conversation has been revived today, it is because of a link from a BBC News article today at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30273667 on this subject.

One thing I find confusing from that BBC page is that it says that Virgin offers a broadband-only deal (without telephone) for £16.99 a month. I think they’ve got it wrong. On their website, Virgin offer broadband for £17.50 a month PLUS virgin phone line of £16.99 a month. (You can also get a broadband-only deal for £28.50 a month; hardly a saving.)

One thing that is not clear in this conversation is that what most people call “fibre optic broadband” is in fact “Fibre to the cabinet” (FTTC). The last few hundred metres from the BT cabinet at the end of your street to your house is served with old-fashioned copper telephone wire. Hence the confusion reported in the text about Patrick Steen’s query to BT. On the other hand, Virgin bring the optical fibre to your house, yet they still charge you for a telephone line, or they charge you almost the same for broadband only as for broadband+telephone.

What clint kirk says about FTTC is correct. However, Virgin do NOT “bring the optical fibre to your house”, they use a coax copper cable from their cabinet to the house. This is a different type of copper cable from the usual landline, and is provided by them rather than by BT Openreach (who lease landlines to the majority of broadband companies such as Sky, TalkTalk etc.).

I assume that for marketing reasons Virgin split this part of the infrastructure cost off, and call it a telephone line to avoid their broadband and TV prices appearing higher than the companies who use BT Openreach intrastructure, but because it pays for the cable down which all their services reach your house, you cannot have any of their services without it (or paying a premium price for not having the telephone service).

Thanks for the correction, Peter. I’ve never had a Virgin connection so relied on information from friends who did – obviously the terminology used is so misleading that even Virgin customers don’t know what they actually have. Anyway, let’s continue the conversation on the new topic that Patrick pointed out rather than this 2-year-old one.

If you want to read and join the latest debate, which includes data on how much line rental prices have increased since 2008, you can do so here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/line-rental-landline-price-rises-bt-talktalk-sky-virgin-plusnet/

Helena says:
8 December 2014

I know from personal experience that Virgin has blatantly lied to me over the phone. Approx 6 years ago -there about -I contacted Virgin to enquire about having broadband but explained I didn’t want or need a phone so I wouldn’t want a phone line. His reply was “that’s ok we now provide a Fibre Optic service so we don’t need the phoneline”

I ordered the broadband and kept it for the few months longer that I was at that property.

To see him at charity events or whatever makes me feel nauseous knowing the fortune that man had(deservedly) amassed, and he resorts to this? Dishonesty at it’s best -Sir


Richard Branson has not been in control of Virgin Multimedia for some considerable time. Certainly not in 2008. !

Jack says:
12 March 2015

I agree with most of the previous posts in that charging rental for your phone line mainly by BT on the basis of maintenance cost is an utter rip-off. My landline has only broken twice in the last 40 years & BT were not quick in fixing it. I believe the future of broadband should be firmly based on mobile technology ( i.e Mobile Broadband Dongles ) that plug into a USB socket on your device.
You really don’t need high speed fibre,a router,wi-fi,yards of Ethernet cable everywhere and a raft of tivo,netflix,and various other useless and costly boxes to access the internet at a cost approaching £800+ per annum. I use a Three.co.uk dongle on my laptops and it costs £7.50 per month for 1gb which is adequate for basic internet. it’s not the fastest thing since sliced bread (20MB/sec claimed, 1MB/sec achieved but it works, for £90 p.a. max, not 8 to 9 hundred £! Develop dongle tech plse!

matt says:
29 March 2015

just how fast is sliced bread jack?

Mobile broadband would be OK for those whose main needs are email and web browsing, but it would not be cost effective for those who regularly stream video or audio. I used a Three MiFi for years and it cost me about £55 for a SIM card with 12GB/12 months data, buying a SIM card, buying from an eBay seller rather than Three. That allowed me to use my laptop and tablet whenever I was away from home. I have pensioned off my MiFi and now use my phone for tethering. In an area with 4G coverage it can be significantly faster than my home broadband. A wireless device such as the MiFi is far more versatile than a plug-in dongle.

Matt – Go for wholemeal sliced bread. It has more fibre so will probably be faster. 🙂

argie says:
31 March 2015

Users want a simple and effective way to get on-line but are forever getting lost within the corporate umbrella ‘baffle them with b*******’ mantra.

All I want is to get ‘connected’ but to do that I need a connection through a line. If the line is an old Telephone line then fair enough I can understand charging for maintenance (if there is any) but charging for a line when the connection is through Cable or Fibre is a FUBAR (F****d up beyond all recognition) idea.

Every company could charge £20 a month for 24/7 connection to the net and would still make profit.

Telecommunications today are a joke, will someone please re-invent the Wheel!?

LouisBlanc says:
18 June 2015

This tax year BT made a pre-tax profit of £2.645 billion.

There are 25 million homes in UK.
If all are paying land line cost of £16, this equates to £400 million.

BT would still make a pre-tax profit of £2.245 billion.

Its about time BT scrapped the landline costs!!!
And its about time OFCOM got their finger out and tell BT to do so!!!

According to the DT, there are around 10 million BT customers paying around £16 a month line rental. I make that nearly £2 billion a year. So as I see it, scrapping the line rental would reduce profits to £645 million. Not sure where it gets us though!


just to let you know we’ve published a new Convo today about how many of us aren’t getting the broadband speed we pay for. Here’s the link:


DanielM says:
5 July 2015

Landline is not needed for any real fibre broadband . BT’s Infinity service is not a fibre service but copper. the DSLAM is just closer to you. BT infinity etc uses something called VDSL2

BT are misleading people by calling it fibre optic. Fibre optic does not slow down over such distances.