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Examining the Changing Cost of UK Phone Line Rental and its Future

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015 (1:04 am) - Score 7,017

In fairness ISPs do have a lot of factors to consider, such as the need to meet new government / regulatory requirements (e.g. adding a network-level filtering service) and to cater for the ever rising data usage demands of their customers or to recover lost revenues in other areas etc. Not to mention the age old desire for more profit and, in BT’s and Sky’s case, their huge spend on TV.

At this point we’d normally try to contrast retail line rental movements with that of historic home broadband prices, but this is very difficult to achieve due to the ever changing dynamic of special offers, service features and other discounts, which makes it hard to establish a firm value baseline for most of the major providers.

It’s also worth considering that during 2015 we’ve seen most of the big broadband ISPs put their broadband prices up, with some such as TalkTalk making a bigger change than most (here). Never the less it seems clear that line rental has become the general sinkhole for many of the cost increases among major ISPs, but that might not last forever.

The Future of Line Rental 

As technology moves forward and consumer demands change then it’s becoming increasingly clear that the need for a traditional phone line is fading, which is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the wider industry.

The new generation of pure fibre optic (FTTH/P) providers and Virgin Media’s existing cable network already allow customers to take a true standalone broadband connection without a phone service. However, as explained earlier, you still have to pay for the physical line entering your home and thus the cost savings aren’t as simple as directly subtracting the phone line charge.

Price Differences (August 2015 Data)

Virgin Media’s 50Mbps Standalone Broadband = £28.50 Per Month
Virgin Media’s 50Mbps Broadband [£17.50] + Phone [£16.99] = £34.49 Per Month
Price Difference: £5.99

Hyperoptic 100Mbps Standalone Broadband = £35 Per Month *
Hyperoptic 100Mbps Broadband [£22] + Phone [£16] = £38 Per Month
Price Difference: £3

* Additional connection fees sometimes also apply to standalone offers (e.g. Hyperoptic charged £40 and this effectively wiped out the price difference for year one).

The examples above demonstrate that the practical cost difference between a standalone service and a bundle with phone is not that huge. As such those who complain about the cost of line rental should consider that even without a phone service the price they pay would not be radically cheaper, although it might be simpler and easier to promote.

But it’s not just pure fibre optic and cable ISPs that are planning to offer standalone solutions. BTOpenreach are currently preparing to trial a new Single Order GEA service (details here and here). The SoGEA solution is effectively a naked Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) product, which would give you superfast broadband over BT’s traditional copper lines but without the phone / voice service. However it’s unlikely to deliver a huge cost saving due to the aforementioned reasons.

In the meantime some smaller providers on BT’s network, such as AAISP (Andrews & Arnold), are already attempting to offer something close to a “Naked DSL” (standalone) broadband service by giving customers the ability to take a copper pair line with no calls / voice service alongside. Admittedly you still have to pay for the line rental, but at £10 inc. VAT per month it’s very close to the base wholesale charge. Check out our Phone Line Rental Comparison list to see some other cheap options.

On top of that even BT themselves have called upon Ofcom to relax their existing regulation (here), which still requires the operator to install a “traditional” (PSTN) phone service upon request. The march towards Internet based voice (VoIP etc.) calling means that the market needs to adapt and BT envisages that traditional phone services may need to be phased out by 2025.

None of this is to say that in the future you won’t still be able to order a phone service, but the line that enters your property may preference towards Internet / data access as the primary service and phone may become an optional add-on, delivered via IP / VoIP.

Such a regulatory shift would also open the door for consumers to buy truly standalone broadband packages, if they so wish. Mind you that kind of move would also mean that the perceived price of broadband may rise significantly because the cost of underlying line rental may be moved into a single charge.

Alternatively line rental may continue to exist as a separate / primary charge, albeit with consumers now choosing whether they want to add either a phone and or broadband service on top. This would perhaps be similar to the AAISP style product mentioned above, albeit more mainstream.

In the grander scheme of things phone line rental is just a small cost next to other utility services like Electricity, Gas and Water, but it’s one we all notice and yet it’s also one that many people feel as if they don’t need. As our article shows, the cost of underlying line rental will still impact prices going forward, but how you order and pay for the services it carries may change.

Leave a Comment
21 Responses
  1. Avatar SpencerUk says:

    Aquiss offer line rental on a monthly contract at £13.00 incl VAT
    CloudScape connect offer a 12 month line rental at £12:50 incl VAT

    There’s options there still..Just there’s not many that do unlimited standalone FTTC..

  2. Avatar aslam says:

    RIPOFF Britain paying line rental to have a phone as an ornament so putting the line rental up for dial up broadband . absolute disgrace but saying that its Britain of cowboys .

  3. Avatar Captain.Cretin says:

    I would just like to add that Aquiss havent raised their line rental charges in the two years I have been with them.

    (I hope this doesnt jinx them into doing so).

    It is time OFCOM and ASA stopped the “Broadband for £5” headlines, with the £18 line rental in tiny print on page 100 of the T&Cs.

    The headline price should be the TOTAL price, same as it is for everything else.

  4. Avatar gerarda says:

    One of the consequences of higher line rental and cheap broadband is that it is getting more and more difficult to find inclusive call line rental only packages. I have seen ones where it would be cheaper to take a broadband package and not use the broadband

  5. Avatar NGA for all says:

    SO WLR at £7.45 a month and retail at £15 (excl VAT) tells its own story. What value eaxatly is being added to the line?

    1. Avatar SpencerUk says:

      The magical words of “Right When Tested” xD

  6. Avatar EthernetMonster123 says:

    I don’t want/use landline anymore, it’s ridiculous! Only a very small percentage of the people that I know still use it. Most have moved to skype, whatsapp and other internet based methods. It’s frustrating that I still have to pay for something that I don’t even use, especially when companies are milking it as much as possible before it fully “dies out” by putting the prices up.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Well as the article says, you do still need a physical line for your broadband and so unless you’ve switched to mobile-only then one way or another it will still exist.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      If you don’t need a line cease it.

    3. Avatar EthernetMonster123 says:

      @Mark Sorry I didn’t read the whole article before I commented this. Just ranted. Woops. 😀

      @Fred It’s not possible to cease the phone line right? Even with FTTC?

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Exactly my point

      You are renting a line for your broadband and for voice it’s not just for voice. You can’t just get way from having to rent a line.

      I believe bt are looking at offering fttc only (no voice ) but there will still be the rental of a line to pay

  7. Avatar Naims Rep says:

    It isn’t just the cost of the line rental you have to take into account, it is also the cost per minute ( most are rounded up to the minute)of the calls, the tariffs are often complicated. Plus some suppliers are charging as much as 18 pence ( once round up to the penny feature of some suppliers is applied) just to connect a call of any length. The large ISP’s certainly pull the wool over the eyes of the unsuspecting customers who only see the “Low cost broadband” price which is featured in any adverts.

    Happy New Year all.

  8. Avatar Groucho says:

    Which is why we left TalkTalk. The prices kept increasing, while the service supplied kept shrinking. We have gone to Fuel, which is cheaper, has evenings and weekend calls ‘free’, and the speed has almost doubled. Ironically, when I do a speed test, I see that the line is from Talk Talk!

  9. Avatar PeterM says:

    The phone line rental is the telecoms equivalent of the power industry standing charge.
    I guess that we can expect that telecom companies will market their products just as the power companies do. Therefore in future broadband may be marketed with for example a free land line included or just as likely with free broadband included with the line rental.
    The truth is that marketing is all smoke and mirrors. The last thing they want you to do is to directly compare prices. So expect more variation, more free gifts and more free months.
    But of course we all pay the going rate and that price will be driven down by competition eventually, until off course they find new ways of creating more smoke and mirrors.

  10. Avatar Captain.Cretin says:

    Thats ANOTHER thing the ASA and OFCOM should deal with, claiming 2/5/10p per minute, but hiding the 25p connection fee and the 18p termination fee in the small print, so that is 45p for a frigging sub 60 second call!!!

  11. Avatar cyclope says:

    It’s only the bigger providers that have been raising the price of line rental, This is purely down to it subsidising cheap or free bb and tv packages,they use to lure new customers into their clutches,
    BT line rental with lrs and unlimited any time calling plan would of cost me around £24 per month, But i have cut that by £10 by switching to a smaller provider, calls are 1p per min and there are no call set up fees ,So i would have to make a lot of calls to spend £10, and there is no 12mth contract to worry about

    10years i had been with BT for line rental, but when they reward your loyalty each year with a kick in the teeth(price increase prices of line rental and calling plan, reduce the advantages of paying 12mths in advance (LRS) remove free inclusive add-ons)It’s time to say enough i’m out

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      It’s not only the bigger providers, a lot of smaller ISPs have roughly followed the same trend (e.g. Zen Internet, Hyperoptic). But certainly there are also some smaller ISPs that do have cheaper line rental than the big boys.

  12. Avatar Captain.Cretin says:

    I’m with Aquiss, I pay £13.99 line rental, get cheap UK calls with no extra fees, and cheap international calls (5ppm to ChinaMobile). If I were to sign up with BT for the same services I use, it would be more expensive, despite the BT headline Fibre cost being much lower than the price Aquiss advertise.

    My average UK call cost is £2.50 per month on Aquiss, which would be nearer £12 with BT, due to the fact they are nearly all short 1-2 minute calls)

  13. Avatar cyclope says:

    @Mark Jackson: Not sure why Hyperoptic are charging line rental for a copper pair when they provide FTTH/B to their customers , a copper pair inst required FVA or what ever it’s called should work fine for voice,
    If i had the chance of FTTH there’s no way that i would be paying for a copper pair on top of that,

    It’s all down to the make the bb cheaper, and kick ass on the line rental mentality, because some are too think to do their sums before placing their orders with one of the big players, who only offer access to part of the internet,& have poor support,

  14. Avatar isis says:

    line rental for copper wiring whats been paid for over and over and BT cowboys bodge it when problems go wrong and they say superfarce fibre where at its as bad as the licence fee for watching the shit on tv .

  15. Avatar cyclope says:

    Lol you mean like that rubbish on the bbc

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