All about line rental

BT Openreach engineer up a pole

A lot of broadband packages have something extra added to their monthly cost - line rental. But that sounds like a phone line, not broadband… what’s going on here?

The truth of the matter is that a lot of providers can only connect your broadband if you pay for this mysterious line rental. Here's why.

Why do I need line rental?

Broadband from most providers is delivered via phone lines. Whether that line is being used for getting online or for making calls, the cost of maintaining it is the same - so providers need to charge for it.

The majority of providers in the UK use Openreach to get their services to you, which works entirely through the copper phone lines of BT's national network. What that means is that there's a fairly good chance you'll need a phone line for your broadband, regardless of which provider you choose.

It doesn't mean you have to have a phone attached - the line itself just has to be active.

How it affects your broadband package

Providers used to present your broadband price as two separate costs: the cost of the broadband, plus the cost of the line rental. It made things a bit confusing - you'd think you were signing up for £5-per-month broadband, only to then discover there was an £18 monthly line rental charge on top of that. Grr.

However, those days are now behind us. As of 31 October 2016, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) ruled that providers must make their costs much clearer. Now, you'll be shown a single price to pay each month that covers both the broadband and line rental. It's far more straightforward.

Best buy deals
  • Broadband + weekend calls
    £40 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • £19.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £24.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Broadband Unlimited
    £100 Prepaid MasterCard®
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • £9.95 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £18.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Unlimited Broadband
    £50 Plusnet Reward Card
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • Pay as you go phone
    • Offer ends
    • £19.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Unlimited Broadband + Weekend Calls
    Unlimited Broadband
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £17.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Unlimited Broadband
    5GB data boost!
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • £10.00 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go phone
    • £20.00 per month
    18 month contract
  • Fast Broadband
    No Price Rises!
    • Average speed* 11Mbps
    • £9.95 up-front costs
    • Pay as you go calls
    • £17.95 per month
    12 month contract

*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

Almost all broadband packages include line rental, and you can usually upgrade to a better home phone package too - to include anytime calls, for example.

Then again, if you're really not a fan of line rental, you can always grab a landline-free, broadband-only package…

Broadband without a phone line

Only a couple of providers offer broadband that doesn't have line rental at all. That includes Virgin Media, which has its own broadband networks separate from BT. It works a little differently, meaning a landline isn't always necessary.

Other options include mobile broadband, which is delivered via 4G like a mobile network, or satellite broadband. Neither, however, are quite as reliable as a standard wired home connection.

Take a look at our guide to broadband without a landline for more info.

Woman on landline phone

Home phone

On the other hand, if you do want to make phone calls, you might prefer to get a few extras with a proper package. A lot of them offer fun things like inclusive calls, voicemail, calls to other countries, and mobile apps to use your home phone minutes when you're connected to Wi-Fi elsewhere.

Some providers even include a few of these features - like evening or weekend calls to UK landlines - in with their standard line rental.

And, of course, you can get line rental without broadband attached to it. Perfect for a household that doesn't use the internet, or areas where you're better off with wireless broadband.

  • Why is broadband more expensive in rural areas?

  • What's wireless broadband?

  • Mobile broadband vs fixed line broadband: Which is best for me?

  • How to use public Wi-Fi hotspots

  • Where can I get free broadband?

  • Can I keep my phone number if I change broadband providers?

  • What broadband do I need in a shared house?