Line rental guide
By Claire Nottage | Monday, September 28th 2020
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 ranting 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 regularly included in the total price of a broadband package, although some providers still show it as a separate charge.
Can I get broadband without line rental?
Since nearly all providers use the Openreach network to provide broadband, there are limited options when it comes to getting broadband without line rental, but it is possible. Virgin Media is a good place to start as it is widely available across the UK, but there are also 4G home broadband packages available from Three and EE, as well as satellite broadband for those who struggle to get a decent connection by other means. A few lucky people will be also able to get access to a pure fibre service, which offers ludicrously high speeds, but is currently only available in select areas.
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, at the time fo writing, Virgin Media charges almost double 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.
Fibre to the premises/home (FTTP or FTTH) 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 pure 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 available in very limited areas across the UK, with Virgin Media's Gig1 service currently offering your best chance of getting it.
4G and 5G mobile broadband
With 4G now widely available across the country, and increasingly 5G, 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, it can be a good way to escape the cost of line rental and get a broadband deal without a landline. Though to be absolutely honest, these packages are often more expensive that fixed-line packages that do include line rental.
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?
There are a number of providers that claim to offer broadband-only packages, but in most cases this is a bit misleading in that they are simply broadband and phone deals without any inclusive calls. In other words, you still have to pay line rental. The main exception to this is Virgin Media, which is the only provider to offer true broadband-only packages across the UK. Here’s a summary of the major providers and what they offer in terms of broadband-only deals.
- Virgin Media – Virgin is the only provider to offer true broadband-only across the UK without the need for a phone line. Because Virgin operates its own network, rather than running on Openreach, there is no need for line rental. However, bizarrely, Virgin charges way more for these packages than it does for its comparable broadband and phone deals
- TalkTalk – TalkTalk offers broadband-only deals but they still require a landline so are not truly broadband-only. If you live in York, however, you may be able to access TalkTalk’s Ultra Fibre Optic service, a pure fibre service with no requirement for line rental
- BT – BT is slowly rolling out its broadband-only Full Fibre network, but it has limited availability at the moment. BT’s standard fibre broadband packages do not offer any inclusive calls and still rely on a landline
- 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
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 Post Office. 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 and Plusnet only offer it with their broadband and phone bundles.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need a landline?
If you want to take a broadband package from one of the leading broadband providers, including BT, Sky, Plusnet, TalkTalk, John Lewis, SSE and Post Office, you will have to have a landline and pay line rental since all these providers use the Openreach network to supply their broadband services. The only exception to this is Virgin Media.
Who offers the cheapest line rental?
Post Office currently offers the cheapest line rental at just £15 per month. As line rental is now included in the price of broadband it can be hard to tell how much each provider charges without delving deep into the small print, unless you are just looking for a landline-only deal.
Only available to those on income support, BT Basic offers an exceptionally low line rental price of just £5.10 per month, which also includes £1.50 for spending on calls. There is the option to also take broadband for an extra fiver a month, for which you will get a modest 10Mbps connection.
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. Occasionally providers will separate out the cost of line rental and broadband so make sure you know how much you will be paying in total.
What is the difference between line rental and a phone line?
Line rental is the cost of having a phone line, 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?
Full fibre is slowly becoming more widely available. BT offers a full fibre service in selected areas, and Vodafone offers up to 1Gbps pure fibre in limited areas with its Gigafast plans. If you live in York, you may be able to get TalkTalk’s Ultra Fibre Optic service.
Gigaclear and Hyperoptic also both offer full fibre services with limited availability.