Can you get broadband without a home phone?

bt freestyle phone

PHONE lines and broadband deals go together like love and marriage.

But as the cost of line rental from the big providers reaches £19 a month, it's a relationship that's beginning to sour.

Going phone free has never looked so tempting - but getting rid of the landline while keeping broadband at fixed line quality is a difficult business. In fact, there are just three ways to do it:

For most of us the only other real option is to cut how much we're paying for line rental: skip ahead to that here.

Home broadband without a phone

Perhaps because of the difficulties, and as fibre broadband becomes faster and cheaper, there's been something of a slowdown in the number of homes choosing to make the jump to relying solely on mobiles.

In 2000, just 7% of homes in the UK had done away with a landline in favour of their mobiles; by 2013 that had risen to 16%. Since then that's stayed fairly stable, hovering between 14-16%.

That's not to say that having a landline means we're still using it: every year we make fewer calls with the landline; Ofcom's 2016 Communications Market Report [pdf] shows that the volume of fixed line voice calls dropped by 9.2% from 2014 to 2015.

The year before, each household had made an average of 201 minutes of calls per month, down from 230 in 2013 - an 11.8% fall in call volume.

Younger people in particular find the landline something of an irrelevance. Earlier Ofcom research suggested that just three out of ten 16-to-24-year-olds regularly use a home phone.

It's not just younger people who think home phones are increasingly pointless; more than four years ago, 65% of Chief Information Officers polled by Virgin predicted that landlines would be gone within five years.

But there are a couple of reason that prediction seems unlikely to come to pass, not least the fact that it's extremely difficult to get home broadband when we don't have a phone line.

We said above that there were just three options. Here they are.

1. Virgin Media without home phone

If we want fast, reliable broadband from a mainstream (read: nationwide) provider, there's only one option: Virgin Media cable broadband.

Virgin Media can offer landline-free broadband because the small part of their network that isn't fibre optic uses coaxial cable - not the copper ADSL lines that some 200 or so other UK ISPs rely on to provide their broadband services.

Even BT Infinity, which is also a fibre broadband service, uses ADSL from the green street cabinet to the house - often known as "the last mile", and part of the reason they require subscribers to pay line rental every month on top of the cost of broadband.

Is it cheaper?

However, even with Virgin Media, going landline free isn't that much cheaper.

Here are Virgin's fibre broadband deals, both with landline (and free weekend calls), and without:

Package Broadband Contract terms Upfront price Monthly price
virgin media Vivid 100 + Talk Weekends Up to 100Mb
12 months £20 £34
for 12 mths,
then £45
virgin media Vivid 100 (no phone line) Up to 100Mb
12 months £20 £32
for 12 mths,
then £38
virgin media Vivid 200 + Talk Weekends Up to 200Mb
12 months £20 £39
for 12 mths,
then £50
virgin media Vivid 200 (no phone line) Up to 200Mb
12 months £20 £37
for 12 mths,
then £43
virgin media Vivid 300 + Talk Weekends Up to 300Mb
12 months £20 £44
for 12 mths,
then £55
virgin media Vivid 300 (no phone line) Up to 300Mb
12 months £20 £42
for 12 mths,
then £48

When we consider their standard prices, going without the landline is cheaper, but certainly not by the £19 a month we might expect by ditching line rental.

Furthermore, while Virgin almost always have some kind of introductory deal on for new customers taking more than one service, they tend not to offer similar incentives for their standalone broadband on a regular basis.

In addition, there are other factors which can push up the overall price.

Virgin Media now offer a free "Quick Start" set up and installation option for £20, but if that's not available, standard installation costs £49.95.

For more on Virgin Media broadband, see our full review here.

Missing out on offers

We've already touched on this above, but the more services we're willing to take from a provider, the better the new customer offers tend to be.

Here's a range of Virgin's current offers as an example:

Offer Terms
virgin media Get a free 6 month Netflix Subscription with Virgin Media Bundles

Hurry! Offer ends 18 December 2017
12-month contract. £20 activation fee. Excludes the Player Bundle.
virgin media TV, broadband and phone bundles from £30 a month 12-month contract. £20 activation fee.
virgin media Broadband and phone from £29 a month 12-month contract. £20 activation fee.

Availability: can I get it?

The big problem with Virgin Media cable, though, is availability. Only about half of the UK can get Virgin Media services, and almost all of that coverage is in large towns and cities.

While they're currently working on their biggest ever expansion project, they don't have any obligation to provide a universal service, and it's just not commercially viable for them to expand to more rural areas.

To find out if Virgin Media are available in a particular postcode area, use the tool below:

Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.

However, for slightly complicated reasons it's also wise to check on the Virgin Media site.

2. Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband in the dedicated sense seems to have had its day.

Ofcom figures show that after a couple of years staying fairly steady at around the five million mark, the number of dedicated mobile broadband subscriptions reached 5.6 million by the end of 2015.

But households with mobile broadband often appear to use it in addition to their fixed line broadband: the proportion of households relying on a mobile broadband connection as their sole method of accessing the internet dropped from 13% in 2012 to just 6% in 2014.

Signal can be patchy and speeds poor, and while data limits have increased substantially, it's not as cheap or reliable as fixed line broadband.

As 4G services continue to roll out, use of mobile broadband to deliver home broadband style services is still being touted as a serious alternative to slow or non-existent services in rural or more than usually densely populated areas.

Mobile broadband reviews
EE: our guide
O2: in detail
Three reviewed
Vodafone: need to know

As it stands, however, the best option is either using a mobile broadband USB dongle/wi-fi modem or tethering a mobile phone.

For more on the currently available mobile broadband packages, see our table here, or take a look at our reviews of each of the main networks, listed to the right.

To find more on using a smartphone's 3G or 4G connection to get a computer online (tethering) see this guide.

3. Smaller ISPs (altnets)

A final option is to go beyond the big national broadband providers and see if a small internet service provider that doesn't require a phone line is available nearby.

Smaller ISPs can use different technologies such as satellite, fibre to the premises (FTTP, similar to what Virgin Media do) or very local high speed wireless services like Wimax, all of which can usually be taken without a phone line.

Let's take a quick look at those options in more detail.


Broadband delivered by satellite never goes near a grounded line so no phone line is required.

However, prices remain high - especially considering that speeds aren't all that great - and download limits are common.

For more information take a look at our full review of Tooway, one of the UK's biggest satellite providers, here.

Local providers

Small fibre and Wimax providers are popping up throughout the country.

The fibre providers offer speeds of up to 1Gb, and because they're pure fibre, there's no need for a landline - but they're incredibly restricted in terms of availability.

Take, for example, the likes of Hyperoptic, who connected their first building in 2011, and Direct Save, who seem to be aiming for both the very cheap and very fast broadband markets.

Both offer ultrafast connections, and for reasonably competitive prices, but they're limited to a fairly small number of buildings or developments each.

Other small ISPs like LN Communications and B4RN have focused their efforts on small villages that have been suffering with poor broadband, while others only supply certain towns, like Gigler in Bournemouth.

Find out more about village projects here, about rural broadband in general here, and the other, somewhat limited, ways of getting superfast and ultrafast fibre all the way to the home here.

To find out if there are any small providers in an area check with the local council; most have a broadband monitoring project in the works.

Cutting the cost of line rental

Finally, those who can't get rid of their home phone line can at least try to dramatically cut the cost.

We've put together a guide to finding the cheapest home phone service here, and one to the cost of getting a new phone line installed or connected here.

These should at least help those stuck with a phone line find the best deals on calls, line rental, and bundling services.


26 March 2016

My question is, if Virgin is imposing a landline fee following in the footsteps of BT's origin of a hard line, a practice which has clearly gone unchallenged with any real vigor of justice. Then when will OFCOM intervene and force them to stop this practice and force them to reimburse it's customers for charging a line rental fee that has clearly been a profit making enterprise. If this is allowed to go unchanged by the agency appointed to oversee and protect the public from being conned, will it just be a matter of time like PPI or Bank Charges that customers will have the right to claim back what Virgin like the Banks thought they could get away with? OFCOM has a lot to answer for.

17 April 2015

Daylight robbery. I'll wait for other network providers to catch on and offer competitive prices.

3 October 2014

I disagree about the patchy signal with Mifi, we've been with Three for two years and our speeds are generally around 5 - 7Mb compared to an average of 0.5 - 1.3Mb with Sky. Admittedly we are the furthest you can be away from the telephone exchange. We're only looking to upgrade probably with EE on 4G as our current deal is only 15GB a month and EE offer 25GB for £30 a month.

14 September 2014
Dave Lewis

It's a good article. Most, if not all ISPs now seem to want you to rent your phone line from them in order to get a decent deal on your home broadband. Not only that but contract you in for 12 to 18 months at a time. It's a con! You should be free to mix and match where you rent your landline and which ISP you favor and STILL get a decent price. I am playing around with the idea of using my mobile as a hotspot but I also have an Ethernet cabled network. I have just ordered a router that can take a USB dongle modem from ebay. If you decide to go down the same road, be very careful what you buy on sites like ebay as many sellers seem to call things by different names! It's only an experiment at this stage to see if it works as I still have a lot of time to run on my Sky broadband and my contract with BT for my landline but if I get a reasonable speed, I will definitely go landline free, ditch Sky and BT during the summer next year. My honest opinion is that someone, somewhere knows that once 4G is fully rolled out, that many households will do the same. My suspicion is that 4G is being deliberately held back, and that 3G speeds are possibly even being slowed down!

19 August 2014
Lee Davis

You CAN have just broadband and not pay line rental with Virgin Media - I do it myself and have done for a couple of years. I have the 100Mb package which is fast enough for video on demand via my Apple TV box and streaming via catchup TV. I use my mobile or FaceTime instead of phone, easy way to avoid sales calls and charity fundraisers. TiVo is so dated, it's funny that Virgin think that it is desirable to anyone under the age of 60 in 2014.

22 August 2014
Choose team

Yes, as we say above, it is definitely possible and a lot of people do it. Probably the reason more don't go for that option, or even know about it, is that the discount for going without a home phone is disappointingly small.

8 January 2015
Firey Flower

Times are changing - check out a new company called Relish.

They offer unlimited broadband only @ 4g speeds and you only have to be in a 1 month rolling contract

They just give you a 'box' that you simply plug in, and away you go! No installation fees, waiting in for the engineer etc

Sadly they are only available in Central London at the moment, and @ £20 a month isn't ultra cheap, but it shows the march of change is on it's way - and that's good!

22 August 2014
Lee Davis

Yes my father wanted to ditch his landline with Virgin but because solely having high speed broadband - 100Mb is slightly more expensive than standard broadband and unused telephone line he couldn't see the point - he doesn't have video on demand or use internet much... crazy situation really. But for young people who do everything online it's a no brainer.

28 February 2014

Great article, it boggles my mind how Virgin can get away with charging line rental since they don't use BT phone lines.

It's about time we should have the option to have a phone free package without becoming penalised with the higher cost.

Mind you, I also believe that the TV licence should be done away with and either a none mandatory BBC subscription service or paid by adverts like every other channel but, I won't rant on about that.

27 July 2014

In my country the fibre optic cable goes to the computer/router directly using a converter in the end. No line rental. In fact, very few people still own landlines. We consider 50Mb/25Mb for down/upload a bottom-line connection, and I live in very poor country. I don't understand why the UK is so far behind.

7 May 2014

Yes! and while you are there... stop tax.

24 April 2014

The BBC is a national institution of national importance. Having a national public broadcaster is a good thing, like the British Museum, or the British Library, etc. Include it in general taxes and dispense with the licensing admin. Commercial TV was killed by computers; it's just a long death scene.

8 October 2014
john le grand

You can't compare the british museum to a corporation like the BBC, no to paying a licence, the BBC is not a british institution for us to support at a fee. Never will l have a TV due to the fees and immoral brain washing programs.

13 June 2015

I agree BBC news is disgusting.

23 March 2015

The main argument against paying the BBC on a poll tax basis is that we are all forced to fund their leftwing propaganda.

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