Line rental guide
By Claire Nottage | Monday, December 19th 2022
In spite of the fact that most of us rarely use a landline for making calls anymore, line rental is still a largely inescapable expense, hidden in the cost of broadband packages.
In this guide we look at why we still have to pay line rental, what options there are if you want a broadband deal without paying line rental, and who offers the cheapest line rental.
What is line rental?
Line rental is the charge levied on broadband providers by Openreach in return for using its network, which is then passed on to you, the customer. Line rental is also charged to cover the cost of maintaining the network of copper and fibre cables via which your broadband is supplied. Regardless of whether you have an ADSL broadband package or a fibre broadband package, a physical line connects your house to the network, and 'line rental' is the cost of renting and maintaining it.
Up until 2016, line rental was not included in the advertised price of broadband deals, making the deals appear very cheap. Since then, Ofcom has changed the rules and line rental cost is now included in the total price of a broadband package.
Can I get broadband without line rental?
Since almost all broadband providers use the copper and fibre cables of the Openreach network (with the notable exception of Virgin Media) you cannot get cabled broadband without also paying line rental. All fixed broadband prices will have a line rental cost built in.
If you have a strong enough signal in your area, you could consider a 4G or 5G home broadband package available from Three, Vodafone and EE. Alternatively, satellite broadband is an option, although it is no cheaper than most cabled broadband services so would not offer any financial savings.
If your reluctance to pay for line rental is more to do with not wanting to pay for a phone line that you have no intention of using rather than the cost itself, then Virgin Media offers broadband without a phone line, as does the latest generation of full fibre broadband services that are slowly being rolled out across the country and increasingly available from all major providers, including BT, Sky, EE and Vodafone. Most providers also now offer regular fibre broadband with pay-as-you-go calls, so if you don’t use your landline, you won’t be charged for calls.
Virgin Media broadband only
Virgin Media has its own network of cables and therefore has no need to use the Openreach network. As a result, it can offer broadband both with and without a phone line, with speeds ranging from 50Mbps to 1Gbps. Unfortunately, Virgin Media charges more for its broadband-only deals compared to its equivalent broadband with phone deals, so if your wish to not pay line rental is driven by a desire to save money, then this is not a particularly useful option.
BT broadband only
BT’s broadband deals now come without use of a landline as standard – line rental is factored into the overall price however, as you still need the line to bring the connection into your home. If you want to use your landline for calls, it will cost you an extra fiver per month, without any free calls included – they now cost extra too.
Full fibre broadband
Most fibre broadband services are what is known as ‘fibre to the cabinet’ (or FTTC), whereby fibre cables lead into your local street cabinet but the remaining distance from the cabinet to your home is connected by copper telephone wires. In contrast, Fibre to the Premises broadband (or FTTP) enables a full fibre connection that goes straight into your home, with no need for copper.
The copper wiring slows down the speed of the connection, so the further your home is from the cabinet, the slower the connection will become. As well as removing the need for line rental, full fibre can supply much faster speeds than FTTC – 1Gbps and beyond – because there is no copper cabling to slow things down. Pure fibre connections are now available in limited areas across the UK, with Virgin Media's Gig1 service currently offering your best chance of getting it. BT, Sky, EE, Vodafone and TalkTalk also offer FTTP connections however, and availability is growing all the time.
4G and 5G mobile broadband
With 4G, and increasingly 5G, now widely available across the country, it is now a viable option to use a mobile signal for your home broadband. There is no need at all for any cabling – you simply plug in the 4G router and turn it on. With speeds of around 30Mbps for 4G and upwards of 300Mbps for 5G, as well as unlimited downloads available from some providers (such as Three), it can be a good way to escape the cost of line rental and get a broadband deal without a landline.
Like mobile broadband, satellite broadband does not require any cabling, thereby removing the need to pay line rental. However, the equipment required for setting it up can be pricey and there are no unlimited download packages available. However, download speeds are now relatively good and average between 30Mbps and 50Mbps – easily comparable to a decent fibre package. On the other hand, satellite broadband suffers with a lot of lag due to the vast distances the signal has to travel, so is not ideal for gamers requiring fast response times.
Can I get a broadband-only deal?
The advent of pure fibre packages means there are a number of providers that now offer true broadband-only packages, although others still offer broadband with a phone line but no calls, for which you still have to pay line rental. Here’s a summary of the major providers and what they offer in terms of true broadband-only deals.
- Virgin Media – Virgin was, for a long time, the only provider to offer true broadband-only across the UK without the need for a phone line. This was down to the fact that Virgin operates its own network, rather than running on the Openreach fibre and copper cables. Bizarrely, Virgin charges more for its broadband-only packages than it does for its comparable broadband and phone deals
- BT – Thanks to the ongoing rollout by Openreach, BT offers broadband-only full fibre packages without a landline, but there is limited availability at the moment. BT’s standard fibre broadband packages no longer come with a functioning phone line as standard – you have to pay extra each month
- Vodafone – Along with its standard fibre broadband packages that require a landline, Vodafone also offers a selection of true broadband-only packages that run on pure fibre connections with speeds ranging from 100Mbps to 900Mbps in limited locations across the UK. These packages do not require line rental
- TalkTalk – TalkTalk offers both regular fibre broadband that still requires a landline but also offers its FTTP Future Fibre services in parts of the UK. You can check to see if you are one of the lucky ones on TalkTalk’s website
- EE – As BT’s sibling brand, EE also offers both regular fibre broadband – with or without calls, and ultrafast, full fibre broadband, with speeds up to 900Mbps.
- Sky broadband – As it operates over the Openreach network, Sky also now offers ultrafast, full fibre broadband-only deals up to 900Mbps alongside its regular fibre deals that still require a landline.
Can I get a phone line without broadband?
If you are just looking for a home phone deal without broadband, then there are surprisingly limited options available, with most providers focussing instead on the huge demand for broadband packages. Only two providers now offer home phone deals without broadband – BT and Direct Save Telecom. BT is the more expensive, but it offers a very good range of extras on its phone packages, from free caller ID to international minutes.
Save money with a line rental saver scheme
If you are keen to save on your line rental costs where possible, then a line rental saver scheme could be a good option. Instead of paying for the line rental part of your broadband cost on a monthly basis, you pay for 12 months in advance and gain a discount on the overall cost. On the downside, once you have made the payment, you cannot claim for a refund after the standard 14-day cooling-off period, so if you decide to switch broadband provider, you will not get your money back. If you have to move home, however, you can take your line rental saver with you.
It’s worth noting that Direct Line is the only provider to offer a line rental saver scheme on phone packages only; BT only offers it with its broadband and phone bundles.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need a landline?
If you want to have a regular fibre broadband service installed, with speeds averaging 35Mbps or 65Mbps, you will still need a landline. You can then choose to use it or not as you wish. Most broadband and phone plans now come with pay-as-you-go calls so you will only be charged for the calls you make. Full fibre plans usually come with the option to use internet calling, which does not require a landline.
Who offers the cheapest line rental?
With line rental no longer priced separately, it is more a case of simply hunting for the cheapest broadband deal, which at the time of writing is NOW broadband, costing £18 per month for an average of 10Mbps with a landline and pay-as-you-go calls.
For anyone in receipt of income support, many providers offer special reduced-price broadband and phone deals, including BT with its Essentials packages. However, this is only for standard broadband and regular fibre. There are no special deals for full fibre broadband.
Is line rental included in my broadband deal?
Yes. Since 2016, the price of advertised broadband deals must include the cost of line rental as well as the broadband connection.
What is the difference between line rental and a phone line?
Line rental is the cost of having a phone line (required for the majority of broadband packages), and a phone line is the line itself. Depending on which provider you choose, phone line packages may come with added extras, such as call waiting, caller display or free minutes.
Which providers offer full fibre without line rental?
By its nature, full fibre broadband does not require line rental as it does not use a copper telephone line to reach your home, as standard and fibre broadband do. As a result, all full fibre broadband deals come without line rental, but this does not mean they are cheaper than regular fibre broadband.