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Landline, what for? Broadband without a phone line

Man questioning landline

An increasing number of us have absolutely no use for a landline phone, yet our broadband providers continue to install a phone line and charge us (sometimes without making it clear they will do so - we’re looking at you, Sky) for line rental. Why is this? Do we really need it? Let us talk you through why most providers still insist on installing one, whether it’s possible to avoid and if it’s worth avoiding.


Is broadband without a phone line possible?

In short, it depends on how you’re connected to the internet. If you get set up the old-fashioned way, you will need a phone line, but there are now a few options out there to help you avoid it. The main ways in which it’s possible to connect to broadband are the following:

  • ADSL - this is the most widely available type of broadband connection, and unfortunately does rely on phone lines to send data.
  • Fibre broadband - fibre packages are slightly more limited but Openreach’s network of newly laid fibre optic cables, which are separate to phone cables and transport data much more quickly, is always expanding.
  • Cable broadband - in other words, Virgin Media broadband. The company operates its own network of coaxial cables - not phone lines - to get you connected.
  • Mobile broadband - if you really don’t want line rental and your usage is low, you could connect to 4G broadband with a mobile dongle or by tethering your mobile and using your mobile data.

Thinking of opting for mobile broadband?Beware that mobile broadband deals usually offer limited downloads and average speeds of 21 Mbps, which won’t be enough if your internet usage is on the heavy side. If you’re expecting to be able to stream films and play games online - expect less. If you only use the internet to check your social media accounts and do a bit of light browsing, however, this could work for you. Also, bear in mind that tethering will eat up a big chunk of your mobile data!

For us, then, the two most viable options to look into when thinking about broadband without a landline are fibre and cable. For details on the difference between fibre and cable and the technical advantages and disadvantages of both, see our Fibre vs Cable guide. Here we’re going to move on and look at the specific deals available to you from providers offering the service.

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Fibre broadband without a phone line

Nowadays, most major providers offer fibre broadband packages. This is not to say that they will all be available to you - availability always depends on where you live, as not every part of the country is equipped to support it. Nor does every provider offer their fibre deals without line rental being “included” - which also means something different to them than you might think.

Though the cables have changed, most companies still use the same wire to provide you with both phone and broadband services. This is why you will almost always see line rental included or coming alongside a broadband package - the same wire is providing you with both. The following are companies that don’t give you the option of getting broadband without line rental as well, or who require you to have line rental with another provider in order to sign up for broadband:

It’s a long list, and there will be some we’ve missed. Essentially, if a provider sells you the service through a process called local loop unbundling (see below) using the Openreach network, they tend to operate this way. There are those who operate their own network, however. Here’s a selection of deals from independent providers who don’t oblige you to set up a landline that you may not need:

Hyperoptic

Hyperoptic offers fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband, which essentially means that a new cable is laid direct to your home just for you (or the building you live in). As you might imagine, this is an expensive process and will not be available to everyone. To see if you can get it where you are, check using the postcode checker on Hyperoptic’s website.

Fast Superfast Hyperfast
£23 per month £26 per month £45 per month
50 Mbps avg. download speed 150 Mbps avg. download speed 900 Mbps avg. download speed
5 Mbps avg. upload speed 150 Mbps avg. upload speed 900 Mbps avg. upload speed
£20 activation fee £20 activation fee £20 activation fee
No commitment - 30 days’ notice to cancel No commitment - 30 days’ notice to cancel No commitment - 30 days’ notice to cancel

FTTP is expensive to set up, but you’ll notice that not much of the cost is passed on to the subscriber. It is general availability that suffers from this, with Hyperoptic only choosing to lay its lines to where it sees a significant profit (i.e. blocks of flats where a certain number of residents are interested in signing up). For this reason, the excellent fibre broadband deals you see here could simply be a tantalising mirage unless you’re particularly lucky.

Call center agents

For those who can sign up with Hyperoptic, your installation and router come free and activation involves a one-off £20 payment. Most temptingly, we think, is that you’re not contractually obliged to commit to a minimum term when you join Hyperoptic - if you want to leave, you’re free to do so with 30 days’ notice. You also have access to 24/7 customer support with any of the deals listed above. For full details on Hyperoptic’s broadband offer, see its provider page.

Giganet

Giganet offers packages both with and without line rental. Its packages with line rental included are called Ultrabolt deals, whereas if you don’t want line rental you’ll be looking for one of its Superbeam or Ultrabeam packages. Here's a glance at them:

Superbeam 80 Ultrabeam 150 Ultrabeam 300 Local Ultrabeam 500 Local Ultrabeam 1000
£54 per month £65 per month £89 per month £149 per month £199 per month
76 Mbps avg. downloads 145 Mbps avg. downloads 300 Mbps avg. downloads 500 Mbps avg. downloads 930 Mbps avg. downloads
19 Mbps avg. uploads 30 Mbps avg. uploads 50 Mbps avg. uploads 150 Mbps avg. uploads 200 Mbps avg. uploads
£55 setup fee £55 setup fee £55 setup fee £55 setup fee £55 setup fee
12 month minimum term 12 month minimum term 12 month minimum term 12 month minimum term 12 month minimum term

The first and most significant problem we see with Gigabit is the pricing. Both the setup fee and your monthly bill with Gigabit will be steep, it seems. Its offer is broader, but when you compare the prices against similar speeds offered by Hyperoptic above, there’s no doubt in our minds which we would go for.

Subscribers also receive one free static IP address with their deal, which is great if you plan on using it to work from home. Gigabit is also especially proud of its Hampshire-based customer support team, who it says operates “without call scripts” - the only problem being that it only operates from 9am-5.30pm on weekdays, which doesn’t compare handsomely to Hyperoptic’s 24/7 customer support.

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Virgin Broadband without a phone line

As we’ve mentioned, there’s only one provider in the UK which maintains a cable network of any significance. As with fibre, Virgin’s network doesn’t cover the whole of the country, so you’ll have to check to see if you can get it in your area. For those that Virgin does reach, it is likely your best bet to go landline free, with a range of broadband-only packages to choose from on its website. Here are the deals you can get without getting a phone line installed:

M50 M100 M200 M350
£37 per month £42 per month £47 per month £52 per month
Average downloads 54 Mbps Average downloads 108 Mbps Average downloads 213 Mbps Average downloads 362 Mbps
Average uploads 5 Mbps Average uploads 10 Mbps Average uploads 20 Mbps Average uploads 36 Mbps
£35 set up fee £35 set up fee £35 set up fee £35 set up fee

These packages are all on offer at the time of writing, with savings of £7 per month on each package and the incentive of either a £50 shopping voucher or £50 bill credit when you sign up. We’d suggest keeping an eye on the Virgin website to stay up to date on offers like this so you don’t miss out on a good deal.

Do bear in mind, however, that prices are likely to jump up when your contract ends - always be sure to check the small print on this. All of the above contracts are 12 months in duration, and you don’t want to get a nasty surprise in a year’s time when your bill shoots up. If you don’t want to be tied down to a contract at all, Virgin offers 30-day rolling contracts with no obligation to install a phone line as well:

M50 M100 M200 M350
£37 per month £42 per month £47 per month £52 per month
£80 set up fee £80 set up fee £80 set up fee £80 set up fee

The speeds are the same. You’ll notice only one difference - the substantially higher setup fee - but also note that, as you’re not bound to a contract, the deals and incentives available in Virgin’s 12-month contracts are not available to those choosing a no-contract deal.

Why do many internet providers require a landline?

Since the first days of the internet, ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband has provided us with a connection via home telephone lines, which are used to transport internet data to your home. In the beginning, of course, the country’s landline infrastructure was owned by BT, but the maintenance of this infrastructure has since been passed to Openreach - which was initially a department of BT but is now a company in its own right.

Since the opening up of the UK’s telecoms infrastructure, other providers (such as Plusnet and TalkTalk) have been able to sell broadband services using the Openreach network through a process called local loop unbundling (LLU). This means that, in essence, almost all providers you’ve heard of have been (and are) using the same network of phone lines to provide you with your internet and calls package. This is, of course, excluding Virgin Media, which has its own network and uses a different type of cable for sending data. This is why, if you sign up to Virgin as opposed to EE, for example, you’ll need to go through a longer installation process to get set up. It does mean, however, that you don’t need a phone line installed to sign up.

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