Broadband and phone explained
By Dan Howdle | Monday, March 4th 2019
In this guide
- Broadband and phone deals
- Broadband and phone providers
- Broadband speeds
- Call packages
- Frequently asked questions
When it comes to broadband and phone, you can't really get one without the other. There are one or two exceptions, but you certainly won't save any money opting for them. On this page, we will provide you with all the information you need to choose the right broadband and phone deal for you.
What is a broadband and phone deal?
When choosing a broadband deal, broadband providers also need to supply you with your home phone. In most cases your broadband connection enters your home through the phone line, so this makes sense, and it's not something you can avoid.
Choosing a broadband and phone deal, then, comes down to understanding two simple things: What broadband speed you need and what calling package suits you best.
Broadband and phone providers
Every broadband provider in the UK offers a phone line to go with your broadband connection. So the question is not so much who offers broadband and phone – that would be everyone – but instead how they offer it.
- BT – BT offers some of the most flexible and fully-featured phone packages, with additions like BT Call Protect (shielding you from nuisance calls) adding real value. However, BT broadband can be comparatively expensive if bought outside of sale time. BT TV and BT Sport often come free or at very little cost with BT broadband and phone
- EE Broadband – EE broadband packages come with pay-as-you-go calls as standard. From there you can add on either 'Anytime calls to UK landlines', 'Anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles' or 'Anytime UK and international calls'. These aren't free, however, and will each add an amount to your monthly bill
- First Utility – All First Utility Broadband packages come with pay-as-you-go calls as standard. However, you can add better calling packages on at an additional monthly cost, similarly to EE (above). These comprise free evening and weekend calls, free anytime calls and an international call package
- John Lewis Broadband – You'll get free evening and weekend calls as standard with John Lewis, then on top of that you can upgrade for a small additional monthly cost to anytime or anytime international calls. As for mobiles, John Lewis offers an additional mobile bolt-on, which will cost you even more
- Plusnet – Offers pay-as-you-go calls as standard, then you can add on what you need for an additional monthly cost. Plusnet is quite generous here (the opposite of John Lewis) in that it includes calling mobiles in all its calling packages rather than separating them out and charging you extra. It offers evening and weekend, anytime, and anytime international calls
- Post Office Broadband – We're sure Post Office Broadband would tout itself as flexible, but its eight different calling packages and add-ons really do overcomplicate things. We have weekend calls, evening and weekends, anytime calls, anytime plus, international saver, mobile saver 100 and mobile saver 500 packages
- Sky – Sky distinguishes itself no so much through its calling packages, but through the options it layers on in terms of Sky TV. If you’re not planning to ever get Sky TV there’s no reason to choose Sky specifically – but also no reason not to
- SSE – SSE keeps things relatively simple, all its packages offering pay-as-you-go calls as standard, with the option to layer on one of three additional calling packages at additional cost, should you choose. They are free evenings and weekends, free anytime calls and anytime plus, which includes free calls to UK mobiles and landlines in some foreign countries
- TalkTalk – Of the big four providers TalkTalk tends to land more at the budget end, competing more with the budget providers than with the other three. There’s not a lot to say about TalkTalk – you can get basic TV with its broadband and phone offerings, though if it’s TV you’re after we’d recommend going for Virgin or Sky instead. No, the best thing you can sometimes say about TalkTalk is it’s sometimes the cheapest
- Virgin Media – Virgin Media offers the quickest broadband widely available in the UK, with its top packages more than five times faster than those available from any other provider. It also offers a great selection of call packages with free calls to Virgin Mobile numbers and the option to upgrade your calling package to include free calls to all UK mobiles
- Vodafone – You'll get pay-as-you-go calls as standard with Vodafone, which only provides fibre packages. On top of that you can add free evening and weekend calls, free anytime calls to landline or mobile, and/or 300 free international minutes to certain countries with its International 300 add-on
What broadband speed should I get?
Working out what broadband speed you need for your household needn’t be that difficult. It’s not a science. You’re really only looking for one number, in actual fact: The most bandwidth (speed) used by your entire household at its busiest time of day. And the simplest way to do that is to generalise.
First, take the total number of internet users in your household and allocate them 10Mbps each. If any one person is a gamer who downloads a lot of games and updates from the internet, double the allowance for that person (20Mbps), and if anyone in the house has a 4K (UHD) TV, triple it instead (30Mbps). If they’re a gamer with a 4K TV, only count the higher amount since they won’t be downloading games and streaming at the same time.
So, for example, if you have a household with four internet users, one of whom is a gamer, you’ll need a connection of 50Mbps (10+10+10+20). You can absolutely make do with less if necessary – this calculation is designed to give you plenty of headroom.
Choose an inclusive call package
Thankfully, the way calling packages are offered on broadband and phone deals is pretty universal. Although the names and the minutiae of the small print may vary slightly between providers, they all largely offer the same four or five levels of call inclusivity. These are…
- Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) calls: This is exactly as it sounds and is the same across all providers where offered. You make a call and you pay for it at whatever the providers’ standard rates are
- Free weekend calls: Although the hours that constitute the ‘weekend’ can vary between providers, this means free calling during those times
- Free evening and weekend calls: Same as free weekend calls, but now with free calling in the evenings. Again, it should be noted that the exact hours – what constitutes the ‘evening’ can vary from one provider to another
- Free anytime calls: This means that no matter what time you make a call from your landline it will fall within the rules that apply to your ‘free’ calling rate
- Free international calls: Free calls to foreign landlines. Be sure and check each provider's list of countries included in these sorts of deals, as they vary
You may have noted in our description of free anytime calls that we referred to rules applying to your free calling rate, rather than just saying all calls at any time are free. That’s because quite often you’ll find that your so-called ‘free’ calls may only apply to other UK landlines and 0870 numbers.
Virgin Media, for example, offers slightly pricier versions of its calling packages that extend your free calling to UK mobile and 0845 numbers. It’s worth your time to make sure that whichever package and provider you pick, the needs of your household are covered and that you’re not going to end up spending more on your calling package than you would if you just went with pay-as-you-go.
Frequently asked questions
Can I get broadband without a phone line?
A lot of UK providers now claim to offer ‘broadband only’ deals. That is, broadband with no phone line. The appeal is perhaps harder to distinguish now than it once was. Up until 2016, providers advertised ‘line rental’ as a separate charge, in many cases making up the lion’s share of what you’d pay monthly for your broadband. That was until the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, stepped in and forbade the practice.
Line rental is still a part of the price you pay, it’s just not listed separately (not in the advertised price anyway). Broadband only deals were once sought out as a way of trying to avoid line rental, with Virgin Media being the only company that would actually supply you broadband with no home phone. The trouble was, and indeed is, you don’t actually save money by doing it.
Broadband comes into your home via a phone line, so you can’t have one without the other. Where you see ‘broadband only’ advertised, this usually just means that you still have to have a phone line, and that you still have to pay line rental, only it won’t enable you to make calls.
Are there home phone deals without broadband?
The converse of the situation above – broadband with no phone line – is a much easier and simpler prospect. Of course you can have a phone line without broadband. Why you’d want to is another matter, and your own business. Worth bearing in mind that while all providers offer a phone line to go with your broadband not all of them offer phone lines on their own.
Who’s the cheapest broadband and phone provider?
This varies on an almost daily basis. Fortunately enough for you, we update our cheapest broadband deals pages every single day, so just head over there to see what's new. The list will be in order of price by default, so the cheapest will be at the top, after the featured deal.
No one talks about line rental anymore – do I still have to pay it?
Yes. The only reason you don’t tend to run into the term a lot these days is that Ofcom forced providers to include it into their advertised monthly costs. It’s still in there, forming a large part of your monthly contract cost, it’s just less visible than it once was.
Can I keep my phone number?
Yes. When you sign up to a new provider, porting your number across is a normal part of the process. Your new provider will do everything for you – it’s simply not something you need to worry about.
How long does it take to install?
Switching your broadband and phone provider typically takes around two weeks. It can take longer in the case of unforeseen eventualities, such as Virgin Media not being able to easily run a cable to your home.
Will I have internet and phone right up until my new services are running?
Yes. Providers are careful about ensuring that you’re not left without services – that there is as little dead time as possible between your old services being switched off and your new services getting up and running. Most commonly, ‘downtime’ will never exceed an hour or two – the time it takes for an engineer to switch your services over.
Can I get a mobile deal with my broadband?
Yes. Most of the big providers – and some of the smaller ones – now offer mobile SIMs to go with their broadband and phone offerings, most notably BT, Sky, Virgin Media, EE, Vodafone and Plusnet. TalkTalk no longer offers mobile deals however.