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Everything you need to know about line rental

Richard Murphy
Wednesday, March 29th 2017

Since 31st October 2016, broadband providers have been obliged to include line rental costs within their broadband pricing. Although prices seem more expensive, in reality it is simply that line rental is now been combined with the cost of broadband.

This guide explains why broadband providers have to charge line rental and why you will still be paying for it, even though it is no longer evident in the advertising.

Why do I have to pay line rental?

Line rental forms one part of the price of your broadband. Previously it was advertised as a separate, additional cost, but now all providers are obliged to advertise just one price, inclusive of line rental.

Broadband requires a vast network of cabling and other infrastructure. The revenue generated from line rental chargesis used to extend and maintain this network

I don’t use my landline, do I still have to pay for it?

Yes, as unfair as it seems, you do. The cables used to deliver broadband are also used to make phone calls. This means the majority of broadband packages come with a phone line, even if you don’t want it.

Who gets my line rental cash?

You’ll pay line rental to whichever provider you get your broadband from. The charge comes on the same bill and is paid every month you have the service.

Unless you’re with Virgin Media, which operates its own separate network, your broadband provider will pay a proportion of this charge forward to a company called Openreach.

Openreach is the infrastructure division of BT, and its engineers are responsible for installing and maintaining the network wiring from the exchange to homes. It was established in 2006 to ensure rival telecommunications providers had fair access to BT’s network.

Why does line rental vary between providers?

Openreach charges broadband providers, including BT, a wholesale rate for the use of its network, distributing the cost of upkeep throughout the providers fairly.

When Openreach increases the wholesale cost of renting the network, providers usually pass a proportion of the increase on to the customers. It is this margin that makes the difference in line rental costs between broadband providers.

What is a line rental saver?

Some providers offer a line rental saver scheme. Instead of paying line rental every month, such a scheme offers customers the option of paying a whole year's worth of line rental up front in return for a discounted price.

Taking this option reduces the cost you have to pay in the long run, but means a large upfront fee. Most line rental savers reduce the amount of line rental you paid overall by around 10%.

How can I avoid paying line rental?

Get satellite broadband

Satellite broadband connects you to the internet using satellite signals. Because it’s delivered this way it can reach properties that the Openreach network can't reach.

As it doesn’t use BT Openreach, there isn’t a charge for line rental. However, there are – comparatively very large – charges involved in setting up a satellite dish on your property, and most satellite broadband is more expensive than standard broadband to start with.

Satellite broadband is also notoriously unreliable (compared to standard or fibre broadband), has stricter download limits, slower download speeds and poorer latency than standard broadband. Satellite is only a viable option for those that have no other way to get a broadband connection.

Get mobile broadband

Mobile broadband is similar to satellite broadband but uses mobile signals to deliver a broadband connection as opposed to satellite signals. Mobile broadband is sold by mobile providers like O2 and EE, and comes with a special mobile broadband router (called a MiFi device), to which your devices connect wirelessly.

Mobile broadband does not come with a line rental charge, but there are stricter usage limits than with the majority of standard broadband packages.

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