Why do I need line rental with my broadband?

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.

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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.

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.

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