Broadband without a Phone Line

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Broadband without a Phone Line Buyers Guide

"Can I get broadband without a phone line?" is one of the most common questions we're asked. The answer is yes, but with many caveats. Here's the lowdown on what you need to know.

Why do most broadband deals currently need a phone line?

The vast majority of broadband services use at least a small part of the UK's copper phone wire network, and to use them you need an active phone line.

This is true even of most fibre deals. The majority of fibre broadband services run on the BT-owned Openreach network, and are known as fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband, or FTTC. Here, the fibre connection only runs as far as your nearest street cabinet, and the link from the cabinet to your home is made over the copper wires. Access to the copper network automatically comes with a phone service and a phone number. You have to pay for line rental even if you don't use the line, and the cost is built into your monthly broadband price.

However, things are changing. The UK's existing copper-based phone service is set to be closed down in 2025, and replaced by a combination of internet and mobile phone services. This is something that is already happening around the world, including in countries like Germany, France and New Zealand.

After this date, not only will you not need a phone line with your broadband, you won't be able to get one. That doesn't mean you won't be using the copper lines - FTTC will still exist, you just won't have a dial tone and won't be able to make or receive calls.

This will lead to a new range of broadband-only services from providers that use the Openreach network. These have the very technical name - SOGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access) broadband - but fortunately you don't need to worry about the technicalities. They're generally sold under the name 'broadband-only', and a few are already available.

What is SOGEA, or broadband-only?

SOGEA broadband is a new range of broadband-only services that give you fibre internet without needing a landline.

In the simplest terms, BT's Openreach network is separating out the phone system from the physical copper phone wires. So, where right now if you have a broadband service that uses the copper wires - which most do - then you automatically get an active phone line and a phone number with it. In future, you won't. You can buy standalone broadband-only services, on the fibre network, without a phone line.

It's great news for the growing number of us who only have a landline because we need it for broadband. You can already get a few broadband-only deals today, and after 2025 it will become the norm.

Areas that aren't covered by fibre will have a slower standard broadband-only equivalent, called SOTAP, while those who can get Openreach's ultrafast fibre service will be able to get SOGFast.

Is it cheaper than normal broadband?

You'd think that not paying for a voice service would work out cheaper, but that's not necessarily true. Your broadband-only service still uses the copper network, so you still have to pay for access, maintenance and all the rest. The actual voice part is a relatively tiny part of the price.

In the long run it may work out a little cheaper, but at the moment you won't save by going broadband-only. You don't need to keep a phone plugged in if you don't use it, so that's a perfectly reasonable compromise in the meantime.

What are the benefits to broadband-only?

In reality, most people won't notice any difference between today's broadband and tomorrow's broadband-only, but there are a few benefits.

  • No phone line. If you don't use your landline, this is the big one.
  • Potentially cheaper. Prices may come down a touch longer term, although don't expect anything dramatic.
  • Faster and more reliable. Without voice traffic on the same network, there is the potential for speeds to go up a touch, and for connections to become more reliable.
  • Easier to fix. Problems with the line should be easier and quicker to fix.

What are the downsides?

Of course, no change comes without a few downsides.

  • No phone line. The big selling point for those that don't use a landline can be a negative for those that do. This may be a particular problem for elderly or vulnerable users, as personal alarms and other support services will stop working.
  • You'll lose your phone number when you sign up. If you're planning to sign to up to a broadband-only package today, make sure you're certain you don't need your number. You won't be able to get it back if you change your mind.
  • You still need a BT line. Even if you switch to broadband-only FTTC you still need access to the old copper cables, so do still need to be connected to the BT network.

What if I still need a landline?

For now, if you still need a landline, you should stick with a broadband service that includes a landline. In the longer term, this won't be an option. VoIP (internet calls) and mobile will replace the traditional phone network.

The main issue with VoIP is that it doesn't work in a power cut, which is a problem if you need to contact the emergency services. To help protect against this, Ofcom have introduced guidelines for broadband providers. These include ensuring that people can contact emergency organisations for at least an hour during a power cut (like through a backup battery, for example), and to look out for at-risk customers and provide them with solutions for free if they need their traditional landline.

It's worth noting that the loss of a landline service is also a consequence of using full fibre, which almost all of us will eventually. Full fibre providers tend to offer VoIP services, with call plans, as add-ons to their broadband.

What type of call services are available?

For most people and businesses, a combination of mobile and VoIP will replace the old landline. It's a big undertaking, as there are around 15 million premises still relying on the ageing technology.

VoIP is a catch-all term that refers to any call made over the internet, and can include things like FaceTime or WhatsApp on your phone. You can also get a more traditional VoIP phone that plugs in to your network, and has a phone number attached. In many cases you can even port your existing landline number across to your new VoIP service - although it's essential that you do that before you switch to a broadband-only service, otherwise you'll lose your number.

VoIP phones offer many of the same features you get with your landline, like caller ID and call barring. Call plans also work in the same way, with a set call allowance, including international calls, premium numbers, and emergency numbers.

Can I get broadband-only today?

A few providers have already started offering broadband-only services on the Openreach network. This is on top of the other companies that already offer similar services.

  • BT offer broadband-only versions of their Fibre Essential, Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 plans, at the same prices as the landline versions.
  • EE now offer their Fibre and Fibre Plus plans without a phone line as standard. If you want to keep your phone you have to add this during checkout.
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1st Year Cost    
Monthly Cost  (Sorted)  
Virgin Media M250 More Info

Includes: £85 bill credit + 18 months reduced price + no phone line necessary!
Uses underground high speed cables so isn't affected by storms

3 stars
£390 £32.50
£50.00 after 18 months
Prices may change at any point during the contract
Credit offer online only

No upfront cost when you sign up online

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Or sign up by phone
0800 083 8870
  • Wireless Router
  • 802.11n Wireless Router
  • 802.11ac Wireless Router
  • Phone Calling
  • Television Service
  • Line Rental

Other types of fixed-line broadband-only

While the big changes taking place are for providers that use Openreach, you've already got a few options for broadband-only products from other suppliers.

Keep in mind that you won't get a phone line with any of these, so make sure you do your homework and decide exactly what you need before you sign up.

Virgin Media

Your best bet for standalone broadband without a phone line is Virgin Media. They use their own fibre network to deliver their broadband connection, and it's completely separate from BT's network. There are a couple of downsides: one is that it's only available to around two-thirds of the UK, and the other is that you'll likely need an engineer to come and install it for you.

Virgin will also do you a deal with a landline for around £3 a month more. The phone lines are non-BT, and it's likely that Virgin will switch to VoIP in the future as well.

FTTP on the BT Openreach network

With FTTP, also known as fibre-to-the-premises or full fibre, the fibre cables run right up to your home, and don't use the copper cable network at all. Because of this, full fibre connections are a whole lot faster - up to 1Gb - and you don't need a BT phone line. There are a growing number of providers that offer full fibre on the Openreach network, but availability is still quite limited. Use our postcode checker to see if what's available where you are.

Smaller full fibre providers

There are other full fibre providers that don't use the Openreach network. Many of these are available only in apartment buildings or new build estates, and are among the fastest providers on the market. Hyperoptic, Direct Save and Gigaclear are among the providers to look out for here, and they do offer VoIP services if you aren't quite ready to give up your landline. You are likely to need an engineer to complete the installation for you.

Satellite and fixed wireless

Satellite broadband uses a dish rather than cables, and is aimed at rural homes where the broadband infrastructure is not up to scratch. The speed of satellite broadband services tends to be comparable to those of standard broadband packages, and much slower than fibre. It can be expensive, requires expensive installation, and comes with strict usage limits.

Fixed wireless broadband (FWB) brings internet services to rural areas where standard broadband is not available. To get FWB, the provider must install a mast in the town or village - such as on the top of a church spire - so requires enough interest from residents for it to be viable. Connected homes also need a receiver installed with direct line of sight to the mast. Even homes in areas of good coverage may not be able to use the service. The speed of FWB can rival standard broadband, but is often much slower.

Mobile broadband

Don't overlook mobile broadband, which runs on the 4G and 5G networks. Although often designed for road warriors, the rapid speeds of 5G in particular makes it an ideal option for home users as well.

4G and 5G home routers

Vodafone and Three are among the mobile providers that offer home routers for their networks.

Vodafone's GigaCube comes in a 5G version with an unlimited data option, and a 4G version with up to 300GB of monthly data. In both cases you can sign up to a 30-day contract if you don't want to commit for too long.

Three offer unlimited home broadband over both 4G and 5G, on one and two-year contracts.

These deals obviously don't need a home phone line, but they're also separate from any existing mobile plan you might have. With all 5G deals, make sure you check your chosen provider's coverage map to see what kind of signal and speed you can get at home.

Hotspots, dongles and data SIMs

These are intended for portable use rather than at home, so tend to come with lower data allowances. However, you can get some good deals on them, and they can be useful if your usage levels are pretty low.

A personal hotspot is a small, battery-powered mobile router, a dongle is a USB device that you plug into your laptop, and a data SIM is something you'd use in an iPad or other tablet. Not all tablets have SIM slots, so make sure your does before you sign up.

Can I still get a phone line at a later date if I need one?

It should be easy to add a phone line if you decide that you need one after all.

If you've signed up for broadband-only from an Openreach provider, you should be able to add a phone line again for the next few years, but you'll have to have a new number. Once you let your old landline number go, there's no way to get it back.

If you're with Virgin Media then you will be able to add a line with no problems. You will need to pay for installation and usage, or may have the option to take out a new contract.

If you're using other broadband-only services, most providers will supply you with VoIP-based phone service, with a phone number.