back to article Landlines: The tech that just won't die

For a huge number of Brits, mobiles have become our primary way of communicating, even when we're at home. When a call comes in, we know it's ours. We can reply with a text, or use apps like WhatsApp to communicate with friends abroad. Increasingly, we don't rely on our landline phones and, thanks to lax policing of the …

  1. Tsung

    With Virgin Media you can have a broadband line wtihout a telephone. It might look more expensive that the "bundle" option, but the bundle prices rarely include the £16.99 (i guess) extra line rental fee.

    Once you add that back in, you're back to or exceeded the broadband only cost.

    I don't have a land line, it's great no cold calls at any time.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      I get no cold calls on my ADSL landline 'cause I don't have a phone plugged into it!

      1. Number6

        I have an Asterisk PBX controlling my landline (and a bit of VoIP too). The general principle is that it looks up incoming CLI in a database and anything marked as a scammer gets answered with a recorded message (the 'weasels' one, for those who know Asterisk) and it hangs up, all without ringing the house phone. Very efficient. I also wrote a little app for the PC that logs all calls and pops up a little message from the system tray with the number and the results of the database lookup, so if it's a known wanted number, it'll be clear that I probably ought to answer the phone, otherwise I plug the number into Google to see who it is while the answerphone deals with the call itself.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Back before the merger, when I enquired about broadband and TV (just after OnDigital had packed up), I stressed that I didn't want a phone line, as I was perfectly happy with the ISDN. At that point, I was told that if I didn't have the phone line, I'd have to have the most expensive TV package.

      In the end, it was pointless anyway - they claimed they didn't have the budget to cable all five flats in the house, so I couldn't have service. No one else actually wanted it, but they said it was their policy to do the whole building, and they couldn't afford that, so I couldn't get service.

      That dates back to when they cabled the street, and we didn't sign the papers for wayleave, so they just left the little flap at the end of the garden, and that's it. Even now, if I check the coverage on the website, selecting my house number says I'm not in a Virgin Media area, while the houses on either side are able to get everything.

    3. MatthewSt

      Same Costs

      The Virgin Media point illustrates perfectly why this still happens. Not providing you a phone line and phone service doesn't decrease the costs to these companies as the amount of kit involved and the amount of wiring to do is identical. So the cost to the providing company is going to be the same whether you take the phone service or not.

      This means that the cost they charge you is going to be the same whether you want the service or not, therefore why (in the case of BT/Openreach) should they offer it separately.

      Let's face it, companies like Plusnet wouldn't be able to offer Broadband at £2.50 per month if you weren't paying line rental. That wouldn't even cover the initial cost of someone ringing up going "can I use it yet?"

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Same Costs

        Certainly, you won't be £2.50 broadband without some sort of rental. But it's the slow creep that is so objectionable and the piling on of things like that compulsory weekend calls bundle that is objectionable - and dishonest, to a degree.

        Of course many firms do this. My mother's phone is on Orange on what used to be a 'Virgin Equivalent' price plan. In the name of 'simplification' that now bills not by the second but by the minute or half minute.

        Bundling things together can be a good idea and save people money. But in not allowing unbundling, firms like BT are just using it to hike their margins while they cling to old business models

      2. Sam 15

        Re: Same Costs

        "Let's face it, companies like Plusnet wouldn't be able to offer Broadband at £2.50 per month if you weren't paying line rental. "

        £2.50 per month to start, but do look out for the 400% increase after 12 months.

    4. jde96

      I recently ceased our landline and TV with Virgin Media, and went for Asterisk SIP over the broadband, which works quite nicely.

      However, I had Virgin come back on a couple of days later and say that if we kept the landline, we could pay about £7 LESS a month than just having the boadband on, for 12 months, with no extra commitment etc. Obviously we said yes, then just didn't plug the landline back in.

    5. James O'Shea

      Cold calls?

      I get cold calls all the time. Well, I used to. Not so much anymore, they no longer love me. Perhaps it has something to do with the way I'd answer them.

      1 if i had some time to spare, I'd do my very best to keep them on the line for as long as I possibly could. Every second I spent talking to them was a second they weren't making money. I would drag the call out, and drag it out, and drag it out some more, until _they_ hung up on _me_. After a while, those twits would stop calling.

      2 if I _didn't_ have time to spare, I'd use the air horn I kept near the phone. There's nothing like a nice high-decibel blast straight into the earpiece to get your point across. For some reason, those twits would stop calling after a few times, too.

      A very nice young man cold-called me on Friday. Apparently I'd requested that he call when I registered at one of his company's 'affiliate websites'. By the time he finally hung up, I'd got a nice list of websites to never go near again, and his sales average for the day was shot. Poor boy. I'll bet that his supervisor isn't going to be happy with him after reviewing the recording of _that_ call. How sad. Too bad.

      1. Martin Budden Silver badge

        Re: Cold calls?

        Easy way to deal with cold calls:

        "Hello? What's that? OK, yes that does sound very interesting, hang on a moment please there's someone at the door, I'll be right back........"

        Then you put the phone on the table (don't hang up!) and walk away. I've no idea how long they keep waiting before they hang up, but it works :-)

    6. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      I've done this for the last 6 years. We bought a set of VOIP phones (Siemens Gigaset somethingororther) and used DrayTel to get a geographic PAYG number. I seem to remember my last BT phone bill was about £56 for the quarter, with next to no calls. Oh, and with DrayTel we get caller ID thrown in and cheaper call charges. The whole thing paid for itself in under a year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Simpler and cheaper than VoIP?

        "We bought a set of VOIP phones [...] my last BT phone bill was about £56 for the quarter, with next to no calls."

        OK, but alternatively punters could skip the VoIP, use kit+services they already have (existing or new phone with anon rejection, existing line rental with BT), and use one of the cheap calls providers (Brand X Telecom etc) for outgoing calls. (This only works with BT [1], other telcos can and sometimes do choose to block the indirect carriers). Just dial the alternate carrier's prefix and your call is routed via them rather than BT, and the call is charged accordingly:

        Brand X Telecom: UK landline calls for 5p or so for an hour?

        BT UK landline calls (out of compulsory-but-unwanted bundle): 15p (?!) setup (!) charge plus per minute charge as well?

        How's that supposed to work, Mrs Ofcom?

        [Brand X Telecom isn't a real company name, but my previous post with the real company name in it has vanished without trace, despite other vendor names such as Gigaset seemingly being acceptable in this topic.

        [1] Since the original version of this was posted and deleted, I've also spotted that Mr Ofcom (as it then was) has withdrawn the requirement for BT to not block indirect calls providers. Nice. Fortunately mine still works. For now. ]

    7. Badvok

      "Once you add that back in, you're back to or exceeded the broadband only cost."

      At the moment VM 152Mb broadband only is 50p cheaper than broadband + phone. Personally, I think having an emergency phone line is worth the extra 50p, I just wish they'd be a bit more honest in their pricing (silly me, this is the UK broadband market after all).

  2. TheProf

    Call filtering

    A problem is that a lot of phone calls from institutions don't have a caller ID for the filtering system to pick up.

    I've had several NUMBER NOT AVAILABLE or WITHHELD displays on the phone that turned out to be important calls from hospitals or credit card companies.

    Also some bogus insurance calls are using fake numbers. I've been getting ones starting with 0151, the prefix for Merseyside numbers.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Call filtering

      This was an argument I had with the BBC for many years when I worked there: most internal phones had direct dialing incoming, but when dialing out were sent with no CID. This was claimed to be because of the group hunting on the outgoing exchange, but it would have surely been in the bounds of possibility for the main switchboard number to have been sent.

      If an IP address from behind a firewall and an NAT router and an ISP can survive the journey, I'm sure that the same can be done for a phone number.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Call filtering

        If the company/organization can/will not identify themselves I simply don't answer. My company is one of the will nots, as is my car dealership, my airline of choice and another that slips my mind at them moment.

        1. Barry Rueger

          Re: Call filtering

          Years ago I figured out that a call coming from a toll-free number, or a blocked number, or no ID at all, is one that can safely be ignored.

          If, by some miracle, it's a call that I actually would have wanted, they'll leave voice-mail.

          To me a phone call with no proper ID is the equivalent to an email that has been spam filtered - the only way I'll bother to look at it is if it can give some real evidence that it's worth my time.

          I'm not alone - if you've ever worked for a polling company you'll know that significant portion of the telephonic population simply don't answer any call that they don't recognize on Caller ID.

          (Note: the term "land line" is a bit much these days, at least in Canada, where large chunks of the population get their "home phone" from a cable TV company or other non-copper provider.)

          (And yeah, we get shafted by all phone companies, repeatedly and with great passion. My favourite is a voicemail package that only allows three messages at a time, forcing you to cough up $5 or $10 a month for a "real" mailbox.")

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Call filtering

          " I simply don't answer."

          Not necessarily a good approach. Our GP doesn't give CLI. It's easier to answer the Withheld calls than find a new GP.

          I get very few - almost disappointing few - nuisance calls these days. I think I must have got myself on a do-no-call list....

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Call filtering

            Not necessarily a good approach. Our GP doesn't give CLI. It's easier to answer the Withheld calls than find a new GP.

            My GP doesn't call me out of the blue. Obviously if I've called someone to make an appointment and am expecting a return call, or if I'm waiting for a delivery and know the driver will phone to say "just where is your house?" then I may answer.

            I get very few - almost disappointing few - nuisance calls these days. I think I must have got myself on a do-no-call list....

            Mine come in bursts, I can have a month with 3-4 every day, then a month with none. Going to my online account with a local supermarket and replacing my number with that for their own complaints department made an amazing difference to some marketing calls, it was clear who they were selling my details to.

        3. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Call filtering

          and another that slips my mind at them moment.

          GP's surgery perhaps? A lot of them withhold their number. Mine does although the receptionist apparently hasn't grasped the basic principals of why it seems. She left a message on my answering machine saying asking so-and-so to call the Dr's surgery to discuss the results of their test. It was a wrong number.

        4. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: Call filtering

          I used to have a 1571 reply message set up saying "If your number is not clearly shown, I will not be answering and you have now wasted the cost of a call. If your call really is important, please leave a voice message." Unfortunately, I had to abandon that when they started charging for 1571.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Call filtering

      I've had several NUMBER NOT AVAILABLE or WITHHELD displays on the phone that turned out to be important calls from hospitals or credit card companies.

      The police have this annoying habit too for sending no number - ever. Why can't they at least send their main switchboard number? If it's coming from their main control room, why not get them to send 999 and enforce the telcos so that ONLY the police can send a 999 CLI?

      At work I occasionally get calls to trace 999 calls from our system (usually just some Muppet not able to use a fax machine) The police give you bugger all information about themselves and the only way to prove it is the police is to call them back on 101. But they then take ages (15-20 minutes) to answer. And then they don't always recognise the reference they give you. Then they phone you back and complain that you didn't call them back!

      The police really don't help themselves, do they?

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Call filtering / police

        The police can be very difficult to contact unless you make a 999 call. I tried to make a non-urgent call to the "local" police in Derby some time ago; number taken from phone book. No answer after 30 minutes so I rang their head office number. The operator there sounded exasperated when I explained that there was apparently "nobody there" and she tried to connect me. Took nearly an hour to get through. One way of cutting down on crime figures - make it very difficult to report problems.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Call filtering

        "The police have this annoying habit too for sending no number - ever."

        My Fritz system diverts all non-CLI calls to a message telling the caller to redial with it enabled, or dial a £1.50/min 070 number instead.

        To their credit, the police do actually do call back with cli enabled. Most other outfits won't and don't call the 070 either.

    3. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Call filtering

      One way round that is to filter to an IVR, which is what I do.

      If a number's withheld or unavailable, it can go straight to voicemail, which is what I do on my business number.

      But on the number in the phone book, people get a message telling them to go away if they're a cold caller/survey, to press one number to reach me, and another to leave a message.

      On the ex-directory number, they get told to enter the results of a bit of maths. I don't see why I should have to speak to stupid people :)

      And, numbers for the elderly and/or technologically bewildered members of the family are whitelisted.

      1. phil dude

        Re: Call filtering

        I like the "bit of maths" and would throw in lines from Red Dwarf....


      2. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Call filtering


        Also adding an outgoing message on the landline, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, you know my mobile number, please call me there." If they aren't friends, they can leave a message and you can decide if their call has merit and deserves a return call.

    4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Call filtering

      I've had several NUMBER NOT AVAILABLE or WITHHELD displays on the phone that turned out to be important calls from hospitals or credit card companies.

      I don't answer any calls which present no number, or show a number I don't recognize. That applies to landline and mobile.

      If the call is important, they'll leave a message. If they don't leave a message the call is clearly not important.

      1. Dr Paul Taylor

        Re: Call filtering

        The problem with not answering a call from a WITHHELD number is that it may really be important. Once I did not answer such a call because I was being pestered by someone else who was withholding their number. However, that call turned out to have been from the hospital where my father was, to tell me that he had suffered a life-threatening incident. (He actually died six weeks later.)

        When companies (hospitals, universities) send out letters they do so on headed notepaper. When they send emails they use their own domain names. How is it acceptable that, as policy, their outgoing phone calls look like scams?

        PS The most effective way to stop cold callers is to get a new phone number, not have it in the directory and never write it on forms.

        1. resudaed

          Re: Call filtering

          Unfortunately not publishing your number wont help much. I work or a small telco and we routinely spot spammers sequentially dialing through ranges. The active ranges themselves are also easy to find, Ofcom publish the active ranges on a few giant CSVs on their website.

          As far as filtering goes, the CLI is easily faked when the call is originated via SIP.

          1. Nigel Whitfield.

            Re: Call filtering

            Yep; I can easily spot the sequential diallers, as my SIP numbers are the old ISDN MSNs, so ten in a sequence.

            Before I put in the aggressive filtering, it was not at all uncommon for me to get a call on two of the lower numbers that I currently use, and find it silent, before finally, when it rang on one higher up in the sequence, to have some useless telesales wonk on the end of the line.

            You can fondly imagine that not giving anyone your number will help, but it doesn't. There are a huge number of companies out there that just don't give a damn about the TPS. Yes, some of them are abroad, but many are in the UK too. As them the name of the company, and they'll hang up damn quickly if they think you're about to complain.

            The TPS and ICO really don't seem to give a shit about this, their blather about how it's hard to stop overseas calls merely helps to disguise the fact that they do sod all about the ones in the UK as well. Given that the TPS is run by people who actually think 'Direct Marketing' is a good idea, it's not that much of a surprise.

            1. Dr Paul Taylor

              Re: Call filtering

              You can fondly imagine that not giving anyone your number will help, but it doesn't.

              Obviously I tell my friends what my number is. I admit that not putting it in the directory or on forms does not completely eliminate nuisance calls, but there are very few of them.

            2. TonyHoyle

              Re: Call filtering

              The TPS is simply not enforced.. it even says when you report a violation (or said, about a year ago before I gave up on it) that individual reports are only aggregated.

              In fact, a quick google shows it's worse..

              You're *more* likely to be called if you're on the TPS, because the 'direct marketing association' just sent out a big list with your number on it..

              1. Jim 59

                Re: Call filtering

                The TPS was excellent until 3 or 4 years ago. When I joined in 2004 (or whenever), spam calls dropped to zero immediately. Then is seems they stopped policing it. The reasons for this need to be investigated. Perhaps by an intrepid Reg reporter...

                1. werdsmith Silver badge

                  Re: Call filtering

                  Some time ago I worked for a company that provided data-mining tech for direct marketers. TPS was applied religiously to the point of disciplinary action for failure, along with other suppressions such as Mortascreen (so people wouldn't call to speak to the recently deceased). It's not hard to do, but it does cost money and I suspect some are cutting corners to save cash.

                  There is even an indicator to restrict calling to "not during live football" or "not during Coronation Street" etc.

        2. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Call filtering

          How is it acceptable that, as policy, their outgoing phone calls look like scams?

          I think it's mainly to protect patient privacy. Not everyone wants their partner or family to know that they are awaiting the results of a test especially since the only reason ours calls is if the test shows a problem. Some people might not even want family to know they've been to the GP recently.

      2. htq

        Re: Call filtering

        Hopefully you'd never have to call 111. When they call back it is listed as number unknown.

    5. Jason Hindle

      Re: Not had any fake insurance claim calls for a while.

      At home, I string them along with the story about me being left a paraplegic, having been run off the road by a police car. After I get to the punchline*, they usually hang up and don't call back.

      * And then the corrupt bastards arrested me; two counts of driving s stolen vehicle and driving without a licence.

    6. illiad

      Re: Call filtering

      you dont have to be a tech wiz or that rich to filter out the nasties...

      just search for 'call barring phone' will get many, including this.. :)

      If you go for the Panasonic, you will get a great quality DECT phone, that will bar 20 numbers! (it looks like your number is 'busy' )

      you can set up 'night mode' so that if the number is NOT in your phone book, it will not ring, but will 'light up' and go to voicemail.. If you want to block 'withheld' nums, some models will block those..

      Android has 'afirewall' that can customise what happens..

  3. Andy Non Silver badge

    I cancelled my landline a couple of years ago.

    Here in France, Orange has something of a monopoly on land lines and in rural areas the only internet available until recently was dial-up or expensive satellite. Cable will never reach isolated rural properties. I had to put up with very poor quality dial-up until two years ago and pay through the nose for a land line that we rarely ever used but was needed just for internet access.

    Finally, technology has caught up and SFR produced a mobile internet gadget. It is essentially a mobile phone that sits on the window ledge and broadcasts WiFi. Don't know the technical term for it. However, it allowed me to cancel the land line and to have fast internet. Much cheaper, more reliable and faster than the crappy offerings of Orange.

    1. Timbo

      Re: I cancelled my landline a couple of years ago.

      Orange and Vodaphone (and others I'm sure) have devices that provide wifi access to your laptop or tablet. They work over the 3G network (and I'm sure in time, 4G).

      One of the more common units is the Huawei E585, but there are others.

      So, if you only need internet access, there are options available so you don't need a landline. Once 4G is available in my area, I'll just use the tether on my mobile and get rid of the landline and the expensive monthly cost.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: I cancelled my landline a couple of years ago.

        Yes, mine is a Huawei box. For international calls we use Skype. Great not be reliant on the land line any more. It used to cost €34 per month for the land line plus another €20 per month on top of that for poor quality unreliable dial-up internet. Now we have 3G internet capped at 12 GB per month for €25. Half the price for a far superior service! It got to the stage with dial-up that it needed to be connected almost 24/7 just to keep up with system updates! Much of the time it only worked at 22k; but then the phone lines are very old and badly maintained - the line is dangling from the telegraph pole up the road so the cows can play at skipping with it. Orange weren't interested in repairing it because "it still works".

      2. Sarah Balfour

        Re: I cancelled my landline a couple of years ago.

        Vodafone is the spawn of Satan. I was mugged a couple of years ago, and had my, rather expensive, North Face rucksack nicked with just about everything I owned of any value in it. I did everything you're supposed to do; went to the plod, got a crime ref, went to the local Vodafone shop (this all happened in Sheffield), and told them to close my account (or so I thought) after providing them with the crime ref.

        I guess it was partly my fault, because I didn't ask the jobsworth to provide me with written confirmation that he'd closed the account, but I'm autistic, I'd just had all my worldly goods nicked, so I wasn't exactly thinking straight.

        I somehow got my mother to cancel the direct debit, but for months and months afterwards, we were receiving letters from DCAs and, every time they sent one, the cunts added £100 or so to the total! In the end, I was staring down a bill for almost £3k, which my father ended up paying just to get the fuckers off our backs!

        What's their current slogan - 'More Power To You'…? I don't fucking THINK so! I only went with them because, at the time, they were the only MSP to offer a 'non-contract contract', i.e. you still paid monthly, but you weren't tied to any specific length of time.

        Then, a few days later, I was walking down Fargate, when I noticed a Vodafone receipt on the ground. On the back was printed: "Proudly Supports The National Autistic Society" - they couldn't have cared less that I was autistic; I was in that shop, trying to sort out not getting whacked with a massive bill, and at least three times I was threatened with having the fuzzies called on me! They didn't, but it was a similar story in Starbucks when I was forced to kip rough one winter. It was well below zero, and I didn't dare try to kip in case, well, that was it. I accidentally fell asleep, and the next thing I knew I was being knocked to the floor by 3, not exactly small, fuzzies. The manager yelled at me, "We don't want your type in here; you're filthy, you stink, you never buy anything and you're bad for business. Regulars won't come in if you scum are, they're afraid they'll get robbed!" It was December, as I recall, and who do Starbucks always support at Crimbo…? Shelter.

        Going back to Vodafone, I don't understand WTF Ofcom can't force 'em to quit penalising crime victims; what if I - or anyone - had been seriously injured, spent several weeks in hospital, only to come out to find a £££s bill…? I REALLY don't get the point of having a regulator if it won't (can't?) regulate. It's not just me, it's happened to thousands.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I cancelled my landline a couple of years ago.

      Much cheaper, more reliable and faster than the crappy offerings of Orange.

      You're lucky. I had slow (nominal 1Mbit/s, often shaped to give 10 kbit/s or worse) DSL from Free and tried to switch to SFR, who offered me 2Mbit/s + a 3G dongle for my laptop. After 8 weeks of regular calls every Monday to check on progress, always answered with "there's a technical problem, someone will call you" (they never did) SFR simply cancelled my order on the pretext the the line wasn't 'suitable'.

      I went to Orange, signed for their DSL at 11am, and took the router away with me. At 7pm the same day I had a 2Mbit/s working line, no traffic shaping. Orange did in 8 hours what SFR couldn't do in 8 weeks. It's now running at 4Mbit/s after I called their technical support line and pointed out that my line (also wet string strung from poles) should be able to do better judging by the noise figures.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Line installation

    I recently moved into a new gaff. I was gob-smacked by the extortionate installation fee BT wanted to charge to re-connect the line. I think it was around £150. Fortunately, A&A charged a somewhat lower fee for their no-calls line ;-)

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Line installation

      Yep; it used to be a lot less if the line was already there, but that seems to be one of the ways they're making up for losing business elsewhere these days.

      1. Vince

        Re: Line installation

        They still do offer this - if you move into a property with an available line (eg it's still connected all the way back to the exchange...) you'll get reconnection at wholesale level for a lot less (whether your provider passes that on is another matter...)

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: A Non e-mouse Re: Line installation

      ".....I was gob-smacked by the extortionate installation fee BT wanted to charge to re-connect the line....." A mate moved into a flat "with a BT line" just outside the M25. Unfortunately, the previous tenant had unbundled the line to another provider, run up a massive bill calling Pakistan, then skipped the country without paying. My mate was told the phone company wouldn't release the line for BT to reconnect unless someone paid the outstanding bill (plus the £150 BT reconnection fee you mentioned as a "new line"!). My mate told them to get stuffed, got a Vodafone dongle for Internet access and used his mobile instead of a landline, he says he doesn't miss having a landline at all.

      1. SolidSquid

        Re: A Non e-mouse Line installation

        Whoever it was was bullshitting your mate. I just moved into a place and TalkTalk had put a hold on the phone line because money was owed. I'd already contacted Plusnet about getting internet, and when I found out about this I called Plusnet to let them know and they got the line transferred. £150 to reconnect the line is news to me too, the only charge they mentioned was something like £50 for connecting a new line if it turned out the previous tenant had damaged the line themselves rather than it degrading (there were line problems that needed some repair work)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Excuse that on a "morning after" bleary Sunday morning but i read the title as "Landmines, the tech that just won't die".... which I did find quite an appropriate title knowing how much damage these buggers do every year.

  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Line only

    The thing is, is that BT Wholesale do have a copper-pair only service with no telephoney service (See here). It's a while since I've had to use one of these, so I don't know what the costs are nowadays.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Line only

      Indeed; we used to use an analogue pair like that at university to link the radio station to some of the halls of residence.

      However, I suspect they're going to cost rather more than the wholesale line rental, because BT has always used dedicated circuits as a cash cow. And they're probably not set up to have a line that has an A end (premises to local exchange) and then just a link to a DSLAM inside the exchange.

  7. Christian Berger

    The ISDN network is sheduled to be turned off by 2018 in Germany

    (or at least somewhere in that region)

    What the company I work at does, is to provide VoIP to people. We have 3 kinds of offers, the simplest one requires you to have your own network connection and equipment, the next one will get you an ADSL or SDSL line (without ISDN or POTS) depending on how many channels you want and a router, and the most advanced one will get you a CPE with up to 4 S0 (actually T0) Ports to connect your ISDN PBX to.

    If you just want a telephone number in Germany you can use competitors like Sipgate which offer a free telephone number as well as pre-paid telephony. So if you have only a few calls, you can save a lot. However rules in Germany are different than in the UK, so the phone company might actually have to pay for a phone number. In Germany they are free, except for a small management fee.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: The ISDN network is sheduled to be turned off by 2018 in Germany

      There isn't necessarily a monthly fee for a phone number in the UK, though most VoIP providers would doubtless like you to believe that's not the case.

      Typically, they'll charge you a few quid a month for a geographic phone number, including on you've ported from another phone company (such as BT).

      On of the reasons I went with the VoIP service that I have now (which is Gamma telecom, resold by my ISP) is that while there was an initial fee for the number port, there wasn't an ongoing charge per number. Since I was porting my ten number block from the ISDN line, at some providers charge £2 or more per number, per month, that was a fairly important consideration.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge

    Landline required?

    Using your mobile exclusively? receiving unsolicited junk calls on the required landline you never use? Easy, turn off the ringer on the phone. If you need it in an emergency, it is there.

  9. Bassey

    Slightly Surprised

    Here on the Isle of Man we have the standard setup you describe, only a bit more expensive. Line rental works out at close to £15/month with another £15/month for the cheapest broadband (16Mb). However, it is perfectly straightforward to drop the landline completely and switch to a microwave only broadband connection. They start at about £15 for the same sort of speed. I went for a 40Mb connection for £25. So I'm paying £5 less per month than a standard landline connection but getting a much faster speed and I live in the arse end of nowhere. Surely such things must be available in the UK, even if only in the larger towns and cities?

    1. kevjs

      Re: Slightly Surprised

      We have that in Nottinghamshire, alas the cost/speed/unlimited data isn't too competative (iPlayer/4od/YouTube/Free view connect eat through 300gb/month!).. Then again if I wasn't so near the exchange / FTTC cab the £30 for unlimited 20 Mbps down / 5 up would be good... - currently 80 down 20 up although the down speed at peak times caps out at 50mbps)

      Does seem popular on the new build estates, as is TooWay...

  10. Shannon Jacobs

    Reporting from Japan -- no landline needed

    In Japan I was able to get rid of my landline some years ago, and haven't missed it at all. I'm pushing the envelope a bit, but my current phone and Internet bill (unlimited data) is running about 5,000 yen/month (about 30 of your pounds or 40 euros/month).

  11. MikeHuk

    Living with Landline

    I still use my landline for calls and get no spam calls. How? And no I don't have a trucall type box. I used to get spam calls and instead of engaging them with any conversation, hang up immediately - "How are you today" = slam down. Now I get no spam calls at all, only valid calls. It works I don't know how but it does!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Living with Landline

      Similar experience except, being a bit more public spirited I asked them to hang on and then put the phone to one side. I reckon that whilst they were hanging on they weren't pestering anyone else. But I'm sure there's a don't-even-bother list that gets sold to spammers.

  12. Andy Tunnah

    My way of sorting calls:

    I have an ingenious system for sorting out if my landline calls are for me or not - if the landline rings, it's telespam.

    I never list my landline as my telephone number, unless somewhere specifically asks for it, even then I'll leave it blank, as it's rarely required for a real purpose. I think the only time it had to be listed was as a backup emergency number for the hospital or something along those lines.

    Or if I'm signing up for something where I just know any call I receive will be some poor sod toiling away in a call centre, THEN I use the landline. My 1571 is always choc full.

    "Hi there Mr Tunnah, this is.." DELETE

    lather, rinse, repeat every few days.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sort of...

    I couldn't order FTTP until I got a copper phone line from BT first.

    I bought a nuisance call filtering phone from BT. It didn't work because Caller ID was off. I bought Caller ID. It still didn't block nuisance calls. Now I have the phone set to ignore ALL calls... no choice :/

    1. Tom 38

      Re: Sort of...

      Eh? You couldn't order FTTP without having a copper phone line first? You sure you don't mean FTTC?

      With FTTP, BT don't even install a copper phone line, the phone line is provided VOIP over fibre and then distributed over your home wiring. They still make you take the "fibre phone line" however.

      My flat has the choice of BT FTTP or Hyperoptic FTTP, Hyperoptic charge £2.50/month for a phone line (also VOIP), but at least its optional.

  14. Z80

    I haven't paid my line rental to BT for many years. I almost never use my landline so most months I 'foolishly' allow New Call Telecom to 'raid' my bank account for £10.09. A year ago, I see from my online banking it was only £8.89. Funny they didn't mention wholesale prices are going down when they put the price up...

    With a couple of referral discounts my unlimited ADSL2+ from Plusnet is £7.24/month

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I haven't paid my line rental to BT for many years.


      I 'foolishly' allow New Call Telecom to 'raid' my bank account for £10.09

      Ah so New Call Telecom pay BT for you. You can run and you can hide but as long as you're jiggling electrons on BT's local loop they will get their two kilogrammes of flesh :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "as long as you're jiggling electrons on BT's local loop they will get their two kilogrammes of flesh"

        It's two kilograms via BT Retail. If you use another (more sensible) retailer and they deal with BT Openreach on your behalf, BT plc only get two pounds.

  15. martin burns

    Not in Sweden

    Here in Sweden, the fibre infrastructure is unbundled and goes up to 1GB/s.

    We have mobiles (4G as standard, even on the subway), plus Skype, FaceTime & Google. What's a landline again?

    Very very happy to not deal with the stupid any more: leaving UK was such a relief

    1. e^iπ+1=0

      Re: Not in Sweden

      But it's still too cold in Sweden. I spent five or six years living there a while back, but I can't hack it any more.

      Even my spouse suffers from the cold when visiting family these days, in spite of being born / growing up there. Nice pics from snowy landscapes for me to look at when I'm sitting here basking in the shade, however.

      In the meantime, back home, we suffer an ADSL 1 connection. Download speed close to the theoretical maximum, upload is, of course, pants.

      Hasta la vista.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no good

    solutions like carrier pre selection are good, but like you said, you still pay BT for line rental. AND you forgot to mention, that BT handsomely slap your wrist for using CPS, by adding about £3 to the bill for, wait for this, "low line usage". Same as you'd be charged by electricity company for not switching the light on.

    We've been looking at getting rid of BT for years, but as we need phone connection (internet access being essential, of course), it's _extremely_ hard to find an alternative solution which would be also reasonably cheap. Somebody mentioned virgin offering "internet only" option. Yeah, they do, but they priced it deliberately only a couple of quid less than internet (cable)+landline option. So yes, we'd get a fast internet connection, but we'd still pay through the nose for essentially the same BT landline, only that Virgin would charge us for it. And try to un-bundle this bundle if they hike up the line rental at any point (as they do do).

    So take out only their internet, you say. Great, but then you add the price of voip service on top of it, and it already goes over the price of Virgin internet+landline bundle, never mind the call charges which follow. Same with skype, which is actually more expensive than some of the cps services we have been using.

    Or, another "great" choice, overpay for mobile contract. Overpay, because we very seldom would use the phone for anything other than calling abroad.

    So much for choice.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT bashing

    Seems to be a traditional pastime, a bit like moaning about the TV licence fee, but why give space for it on the register rather than, say, DigitalSpy or the Daily Mail?

    Several members of my extended family switched away from BT for phone & broadband. Without exception every one of them has gone back to BT, the quality of service of the others was so poor. Price isn't the only criterion.

    As for the "ridiculous" charge for not using Direct Debit, it's pretty obvious why they do it. When you get a bill that says, say, £40.00 to be paid by the 23rd, BT know that with DD they'll have the money on the 23rd.

    For those folks who want to pay by cheque or credit card, or manual bank transfer, a good many of them will ignore that bill. They'll wait a week or so for the red notice that asks them not to forget, and points out that they'll be disconnected in 7 days. Finally, after 7-8 days, most pay. We've all heard them bragging in the pub about how they never pay until they get the first, or even second, red notice, so they can keep the money in their account. Charging them £4 extra is partly a way to discourage it, partly a way to make up for the lost interest and bad debts that they cause. It's a perfectly reasonable approach that keeps costs down for the rest of us.

    1. Dr Paul Taylor

      Re: BT bashing

      Obviously a BT employee here.

      Aside from all the things above, I left BT Retail because they were structurally incompetent.

      Specifically, when I had what turned out to be a simple exchange fault (probably the line card had been nudged out of place), for four months they were not only unable to fix it, but prevented me from communicating with any technically competent person. Eventually there was an occasion when the fault only affected the ADSL, which was with another company (ICUK). They got the fault fixed within a few hours and also provided me with a letter of explanation, which I used in my subsequent complaint against BT. Needless to say, the "Ombudsman" whitewashed BT. Since then, ICUK has looked after my phone line too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT bashing

        Obviously a BT employee here.

        Nope. I was, 25 years ago, but I don't feel any particular loyalty to them because of that. I do, perhaps, have a better idea of what is actually required to provide service than some of the posters here, though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BT bashing

      "Seems to be a traditional pastime"

      There is a reason for that. Some of us have had dealings with BT at various levels.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: BT bashing

        At the last place I moved to in the UK I contacted BT and asked them to transfer my old number to the new house; it was in the same area code. "Sorry, there is no phone line to your new address". "Yes there is; I'm looking at it." "Is it a new build?" "No, the property has been here around 150 years." Blah, blah, blah. Unable to convince them my address had ever had a phone line despite it having both a line and a telephone outlet box on the wall marked "BT". A couple of weeks later a bloke from BT turns up to install a phone line to the property "Oh! You've already got a phone line!"... Bashes head against wall.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: BT bashing

          > having both a line and a telephone outlet box on the wall marked "BT".

          Offer to connect a mains cable upto it and ask them if they can see it at their end.

          That's what I suggested to NTL when they claimed they didn't serve my postcode - in spite of an NTL box on the wall with a bit of coax sticking out

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        France, home for the Free not for BT

        About 10 years ago, we used to pay France Telecom anywhere from 50 to 100 euros a month in phone calls plus 12 euros a month line rental (I think it now costs about 15 euros with Orange). Broadband access was another 20 euros a month. By moving to a little known broad band provider called Club Internet, I was able to do the following:

        Dump my FT line subscription

        Get free international VOIP calls.

        See my broadband speed jump from a throttled 1 MBs to 4.5 MBs

        And that all cost me about 30 euros a month. Since then, I have been through several ISP shifts because of mergers, etc. but now work with Free. I currently get all of the above plus digital TV for 38 euros per month, all inclusive. In a nutshell, voting with my feet has now saved me upwards of 60 euros a month on average or about 7200 euros to date.

        Check this comparative broadband price chart for 2013:

        On average, the UK fares only slightly worse than France in pricing, but based on comments here it seems many of you are being reamed by legacy telco charges such as fixed line rentals. Don't you have the option to unbundle yourself from this service?

        Don't get me wrong, we have the Orange monster here in France and they are just as bad as BT, possibly worse, despite posts to the contrary. @AC who posted earlier about a happy ending with Orange, I can't say I know many who ever been treated by Orange that well, at least in this part of France (south east). Perhaps they you are referring to another company, or the management had an exorcism performed recently? Don't know don't care. I will never, ever use them again. I would sooner go back to tin cans and a wet string or launch my own comms satellite.

        1. Andy Non Silver badge

          Re: France, home for the Free not for BT

          "the Orange monster here in France..."

          Tell me about it! It was a nightmare cancelling their crappy dial-up internet. My obligatory registered letter to terminate the service was ignored and they continued billing me. Phone call to their customer services "Sorry, we got your letter but haven't done anything. We'll close the account and reimburse the extra money we took." Following month they billed me again. Another call to customer services. "Sorry, we'll disconnect and reimburse you." A month later billed again. I decided the next step was to do it the French way... I sent a letter to their head office and a copy to the local Orange shop stating that unless the account was terminated and money was reimbursed by a certain date I would demonstrate outside their shop and hold a large placard denouncing them as thieves and hand out leaflets to everyone listing the saga of the problems I've had dealing with them. I got no reply to the letter but the money was swiftly reimbursed and account closed. I'll never deal with Orange ever again. They have the worst customer service of any company I've ever dealt with.

          My French neighbours told me they weren't surprised. Orange has a terrible reputation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: France, home for the Free not for BT

            I'll never deal with Orange ever again. They have the worst customer service of any company I've ever dealt with.

            Funny, I've found the staff in the local shops to be courteous, and the telephone support people (who are in France, not outsourced overseas like Free and SFR) to be competent and effective. And no, I've never worked for them or been anything but an ordinary customer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: France, home for the Free not for BT

          . I currently get all of the above plus digital TV for 38 euros per month, all inclusive.

          You'll get the same with Orange for 34 euros/month.

          I'm the A/C that posted earlier. I wouldn't touch Free again with the proverbial bargepole. They lie.I could say worse, but they have an interesting habit of suing customers who use the word "arnaque" ("fraud") in internet forum postings. Great way to keep customers.

    3. Down not across

      Re: BT bashing

      For those folks who want to pay by cheque or credit card, or manual bank transfer, a good many of them will ignore that bill. They'll wait a week or so for the red notice that asks them not to forget, and points out that they'll be disconnected in 7 days. Finally, after 7-8 days, most pay. We've all heard them bragging in the pub about how they never pay until they get the first, or even second, red notice, so they can keep the money in their account. Charging them £4 extra is partly a way to discourage it, partly a way to make up for the lost interest and bad debts that they cause. It's a perfectly reasonable approach that keeps costs down for the rest of us.

      "A good many"? Really? Arguable. In any case at least you didn't even try "all". Until you someone actually does not pay in time, it is pretty criminal to charge anything just in case they might not pay on time.

      Kinda reminds me of the stupid "Piracy is stealing!" clips that everyone is forced to watch if they purchase a DVD. Same thing, lets just treat everyone like pirates because they could be, not because they really are. Pirates don't need to watch through that crap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT bashing

        "A good many"? Really? Arguable.

        No. Personal experience.

        In any case at least you didn't even try "all". Until you someone actually does not pay in time, it is pretty criminal to charge anything just in case they might not pay on time.

        Not fair, maybe, but hardly criminal. Look at the supermarkets, at least some of what you pay on your weekly shop is the extra they add on to cover "shrinkage", i.e. theft by dishonest customers. Annoying for the honest customers, who have to pay for the thieves, but the alternative would be the old personal-service grocery shop, which would cost you even more.

        The price of doing business is that thieves add costs. The most any business can do is restrict that extra cost to the areas where the fraud occurs.

      2. Glenturret Single Malt

        Re: BT bashing

        Could someone please explain the reason for hostility towards Direct Debit. I have been using it for many years and have never had a problem with BT, energy companies, TV licensing or insurance premiums. The advantage of being able to organise regular payments from my bank account at a time that suits me vastly outweighs the chore of having to make every payment individually. I do still get a monthly paper bank statement and that coupled with online checks provides sufficient reassurance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BT bashing

          Direct Debit puts (despite the DD guarantee) the vendor in control. A mistake in the vendor's system can allow them (and has in the past) to debit your account for more than expected/agreed. Standing orders on the other hand put *you* in control and any under/overpayments are *your* fault. All all intents and purposes, they are the same thing. The money arrives in the bank account, the reference is the same, so why on God's green earth would BT believe that paying by standing order warrants a 4 quid charge?

          Screw 'em. When my aggregate cost per quarterly bill hit 16 quid a month, primarily thanks to this ludicrous 'processing fee', I unbundled to my DSL ISP and today my line rental is still a third less than BT with its poxy 'processing fee' included.

          Now if only my ISP did the 'bare metal' kind of deal for DSL-only customers...

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: BT bashing

          "Could someone please explain the reason for hostility towards Direct Debit"

          BT (and various others) have amply demonstrated they aren't competent enough to be allowed to use it.

          Personal experience. Having 3 DDs come out at the same time and then having them take months to sort it out, etc etc.

          The tossers attempted to DD me after I moved away from them too.

  18. Curmudgeonly Old Fool

    Easy call blocking

    Why has no-one suggested a call blocking phone? We were plagued with nuisance calls until I installed a BT branded (I know, I know!) call blocking phone. Now everyone who isn't on my contacts list has to announce themselves before being passed through and, of course, the nuisance callers never do. If they did, I can refuse to accept the call and block any future attempts. Oh, and I use the Post Office for my telephone line not BT.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy call blocking

      Other call blocking phones are available.

      Gigaset (formerly part of Siemens) do some very reasonable ones which are often quite affordable in Sainsburys ("half price" = from £30 or so for two handsets with ringer tone choosable based on CLI, including no ringing for blacklist or number unknown). As usual, BT are the default supplier of overpriced telecom equipment and services to the naive and ill-informed.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Truecall is great

    Though it does cost money. The box answers calls automatically and silently. If the caller is not on your "star" list of preferred numbers they are invited to identify themselves. Only if they leave a message does your phone ring, in which case it plays the message and asks you if you want to take the call. Cold callers rarely leave a message. It used to be that a ringing phone in our house was usually telesales (despite belonging to the TPS). Now it's nearly always someone we want to talk to.

    You can also program particular numbers to always be binned and set Truecall to bin calls from abroad and those with no caller display (though please don't reject anonymous calls - in my work I sometimes have to make important and urgent calls in situations where the line doesn't give out CLI).

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one that felt like I was reading and article on how to pick the best horse and cart? I have to admit the world would be a slightly simpler place if I could give my ISP £x a month for an internet service rather than £y for a phone line and £z for ADSL but in the greater scheme of things it's hardly a big deal. As for nuisance calls just unplug the land line. Ok, that's a bit harsh, I realize mobile only isn't an option for some people but for a large portion of the population living without a land line phone would be fairly easy.

    I don't see the demise of land line phones until we start seeing fibre being rolled out on mass and that isn't going to happen any time soon. Even then it'll be interesting to see if the masses can make the mental leap away from having a fixed line.

  21. streaky


    Having to pay for it is a little like a garage selling you a Ferrari, and then charging you extra to be able to drive it at more than 50 miles an hour

    No it's like having a 1980's Skoda that you can't buy only lease that was paid for by the taxpayer anyway and costs them close-to-zero to maintain and they put no effort into improving the roads and them charging you an lease on the car stereo that you can't not have at 15 quid/month.

    This stuff actually gets worse if you're a Hyperoptic customer or certainly what VM used to do, not sure if they still do - you have to actually pay more if you don't take a phone package. Now I love Hyperoptic but that policy is idiotic - the only way they can get away with it is because BT massively distorting the market; you're still better off and your ISP is a million times better anyway so you have to bend over and take it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My BT landline phone bill is a fixed £66.47 every quarter. That includes £5.25 for CLI. It provides free national calls at any time including 0845 and 0870 - for up to 60 minutes on each call initiation. My ADSL broadband is a separate deal with Demon.

    Obviously I try to avoid calling mobile or any other special rate numbers that would incur a charge. My mobile is a PAYG that is only used for texts when necessary. Friends have complained about my dumb mobile when they couldn't send me a picture of their cat.

    Cold callers can be a problem. Several important callers like the doctor and council offices all insist on using Withheld. A foreign friend registers as International when she uses her free credits and doesn't want to to use Skype.

    This week has been a plague of cold callers selling solar energy or kitchen schemes - just when they seemed to have finally taken the hint.

    My PAYG received its first ever phishing text this week. As it happened not long after a friend had sent a text it did lead to speculation that their smartphone had been compromised.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What stops cold callers proliferating on mobiles? Is there some tariff that makes it uneconomical? Presumably there's nothing to stop them automatically cycling through all possible digit combinations in a supplier's block range?

    1. auburnman

      I would speculate that because your mobile can go abroad there's a risk to the scammers of accidentally running up hefty international charges.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I would speculate that because your mobile can go abroad there's a risk to the scammers of accidentally running up hefty international charges.

        It doesn't work that way, at least not in Europe. If you choose to take your phone abroad, any additional charges are billed to you, not the caller. The caller always pays only the cost of a call to your home network.

    2. Steven Jones

      Indeed it is regulatory

      Call termination charges (that's what a network operator is allowed to charge for connecting a call on their network) have historically been far higher on mobile networks than landlines. Termination charges on landline numbers are, in comparison, almost insignificant. (The used to be about 0.2p/min, but have been reduced to 0.034p/min).

      Indeed, Ofcom specifically engineered it that way as a method of financing the build out of the mobile networks. For a long time landline users have been paying for mobile networks, although this is changing as, mobile networks are having more tightly regulated call termination pricing.

      The above is the reason why packages don't include calls to mobiles, whilst mobile networks do include landline calls. Mobile packages can afford to include mobile minutes as, on average, the calls into and out of a mobile network balance.

    3. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      The thing that really amazes me is that cold callers haven't got the hang of VOIP yet - as it's free to call a SIP phone from another SIP phone.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        I'm sure some of them try; I did have the fond idea of publishing my SIP info in the DNS so people could use my main work email address to reach me via SIP, if they had a suitable setup. But I quickly realised that allowing just anyone to talk to my SIP server was a recipe for disaster - even if they don't crack a password, the sheer number of attempts would bring it to its knees.

        So now, I restrict incoming call notifications so they have to come from the provider of my SIP trunks. It means people can't call me free via SIP, but at least I'm safer from script kiddies and very likely spammers too.

        (Of course, for VoIP spammers, even if they do manage to find a SIP system to call into, they still need to know more; it's not like the phone book where you know there are always a certain number of digits. Connecting to someone via SIP, and you don't know if they're using 2, 3 or 4 digit extensions, for instance, or even names rather than numbers on the handsets. Without a list of actual confirmed SIP addresses, you'd be doing a lot more brute force than simply working through a traditional list of phone numbers).

  24. herman

    Dry DSL

    You certainly can get dry DSL with no dial tone. You just have to call customer service and insist on it. Simply don't take no for an answer and it is cheaper than the package deal. There are lots of business DSL lines with no dial tone.

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Dry DSL

      Indeed, and that has been the case for some time - eg dates back 3 1/2 years. IN fact, Gradwell's services provide a higher specification (typically a higher transfer allowance) for MPF lines than they do for SMPF lines. OK, so these are business grade services at business prices, but the principle applies to any ISP - if they run an unbundled service than they can provide ADSL without a phone service.

      Of course, FTTC is a different kettle of fish altogether. There is no technical reason that couldn't be done without even having copper back to the exchange since the copper line only needs to go back to the FTTC cabinet.

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: Dry DSL

        There is a product called "SLU", or subloop unbundling which has been used for FTTC use (although the number of non BT FFTC deployments has been very low, although there have been some). However, there's very little difference in wholesale cost. That might seem odd, but the the great majority of the cost of a network is where it "fans out" from the consolidation points,. There may be less copper in that part of the network, but there are far more joints, miles of ducts, telegraph poles and so on.

        In any event, the route back to the exchange has to be paid for, and those costs will just get transferred back onto the fibre backhaul.

        There's a myth that the main cost of the network is in the copper. It's not. It's in all the infrastructure required to support it all, the manpower, rates, power, poles, cabinets, footway boxes, ducts, builds and so on. All those (or close equivalents) are required for fibre too.

        A few years ago Tim Worstall on these very pages produced a laughable estimate of the value of the copper in BT's network (overestimating it by a factor of 20 or more). The value of the "raw" copper is around the £2.5bn mark, although when fashioned into cable it's perhaps double that.

        So the return on capital employed in the copper in the "E side" of the network is a relatively small proportion of the total costs of the network infrastucture.

        (Somewhere around there is a report that OpenReach has to produce annually on the "book value" of the network assets, albeit that isn't the one that Ofcom uses to regulate prices directly).

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT = British Telescam

    Civil Services ie. Police, Hospitals, Health Centres etc.. should show their caller ID, if you have it activated on your landline (which should also be free).

    Everything WITHHELD, NUMBER NOT AVAILABLE or UNKNOWN gets ignored in our house that's registered with that toothless crocodile TPS (Telephone Preferential Service) for over 7 years on an ex-directory landline!

  26. Tom 35

    Bell Canada

    Still charge for touch tone.

  27. Old_timer

    The really odd thing is that I've been told by an independent financial advisor (IFA) that not having a landline will count against you if you're applying for a mortgage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That is not entirely true

      I have not had a problem with any of my mortgage providers on that.

      But then again, me living at the same address for a decade probably had something to do with it. :-)

  28. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Basic principles?

    A previous monopoly/oligopoly created then modified by central guvmint should:

    1 - not be a principle provider of services direct to public, to other commercial organisations with which it, on the face of it, is in direct competition with either for commercial competitors or direct to customer.

    2 - BT at de-regulation should have been presented with choice of being

    (a) national provider of wires n technologies to all in the country

    (b) provider of services to entities (commercial, profit or no-profit) providing direct to customer services

    (c) provider of services direct to end user customers.

    These should have been made at the time and should have been made mutually exclusive?

    3 - for the situation to continue to exist in its present 'orrible state OFCOM needs to be decommissioned tout de suite (if that means straight away without further delay that is).

    I know the above is fraught with misinterpretation but hey - these principles could keep a sizeable (seizable?) army of civil servants in the pink until several generations of retirements has past no?

    In the US they have a way of splitting an organisation up if it dominates too many sectors in a market and BT is prime for that sort of splitting up (so were gas, electricity, water, national health, national transport, national coal, national wheeled vehicle manufacture, national flying machines, ... but those opportunities seem to have almost past by now?)

  29. All names Taken


    Most once-were-national-monopolies or oligopolies and/or presently are monopolies or oligopolies are now operating under a pay more-sooner, get less-later business model?

  30. StripeyMiata

    Was with BT, they mischarged me £50 and their shitty Indian Call Centre spent a year promising to refund it and never did. Finally got in contact with a UK bod and got it refunded within 1 day. Now with A&A for Broadband, and Co-Op for Landline. While I knew I could get landline with A&A for £10, I could get the same deal with the Co-Op and still be able to ring out.

  31. LaeMing

    I went naked for a while (fnar fnar)

    Then my ISP switched me back to bundled as their wholesaler was offering that cheaper.

  32. Black Road Dude

    No line free options?

    Are we not getting to a point where we could just buy a gift gaff unlimited sim card and run TV and Internet access from there for home use? That's what I really wanted the answer to be! But it wasn't even mentioned as an option.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whinging BT Poms

    Try dealing with Telstra, go on, I dare you ... just try.

  34. jason 7

    After watching Dispatches about unsolicited calls...

    I saw a trick that actually seems to work.

    If I get a call I ask two things politely and clearly.

    1. Please do not ever call me again!

    2. Please remove me from your database!

    That's it. No rudeness or shouting.

    Since I started doing that the number of such calls has dropped dramatically.

  35. reg 5

    Landline? What is that? Oh.. I remember..

    ...It was that thing we had before mobile phones.

    In Finland you do not need to have a phone service to get ADSL, they are completely separate. I have not had phone service on the line since I switched from ISDN to ADSL for my internet connection around the turn of the century.

    Though the minimum price of broadband has gone up lately as you used to get slow ADSL at <20 eur/month, but all providers have removed them and starting speed are 10m at 27-30 eur/month..

    The lower competition from the consolidation of the market is certainly clear..

  36. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Hurray! I'm glad this is getting some airing, I'm fed up having to pay £20 a minute for the rare telephone call I make just so I can have an internet connection.

  37. heyrick Silver badge

    and the total per quarter is £60.22

    I pay that per month (France).

  38. John Miles 1

    Idea to stop nuisance calls

    Re-engineer the billing so that calling party pays something for the call to be accepted - this charge could even be waived if the call was held for 1 minute or the called party entered a code ( so that genuine callers were not charged). In that way it would now cost a much more money for all those silent and no hope calls to be placed. Not sure how this would actually be implemented ( harder with international calls) - but given that the incentive for making the calls is financial then a financial deterrent seems the best approach.

  39. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    What is this rant actually about?

    Are you complaining about the fact that there are still landlines? You might consider them legacy, but they are also a part of the universal service obligation from Land's End beyond John O'Groats to Orkney and Shetland. Personally, this is something I think is important.

    I would expect that a huge proportion of Reg readers have taken advantage of Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) to get their broadband service from someone other than BT, but how many of you have done the same with your phone service?

    Why do those who stick with the incumbent expect things to change for better for them?

    Despite the fact that telecommunications were privatised much later in Germany than in the UK the system seems to be working better. LLU was introduced shortly before 2000 and I immediately took advantage of it and haven't looked back. There are many accounts that LLU, introduced even later, in France and has been a success, even prompting the notoriously slow and surly France Telecom to up its game.

    I think that what you're really describing is a failure of regulation both to encourage competition and to maintain standards. From the very start privatisation of the phone service (and later other utilities) in the UK was flawed. Cable & Wireless (itself a product of privatisation) was not allowed to compete with British Telecom for the same services and so mainly concentrated on companies. The carve up led years of record profits and combined with underinvestment. When LLU was introduced it didn't come with enough incentives for other companies to invest either. This is why the situation in the UK is the way it is.

    Some other points:

    paying by direct debit

    This is pretty much every contract even though it actually costs the providers money – banks often charge to hold the money in escrow because it can be clawed back by an account holder. If it can't be excluded by the contract, then the provider will seek to make alternatives as expensive as legally possible. The costs associated with potential non-payment are simply too high. An alternative, of course, might be to introduce PAYG for landline. Remember when they did that for the leccy?

    caller id

    This really is up to the regulator to enforce as part of the service (it's in the spec) to prevent the Ryanair prices you describe. Companies wanting to avoid showing direct lines should should show the number of the switchboard.

    nuisance calls

    Again, this is really down to the regulator. I've only ever had a few in Germany but have always complained (caller id helps here) but since the fines were significantly increased a couple of years ago, I believe that particular problem has largely disappeared. When it has happened, I never got angry I just told the caller I would be lodging a complaint and noted the number. It probably helps that the provider of connectivity for the nuisance caller can be held responsible, so that even if the number is withheld the phone company can track them down using their logs.

    broadband only

    has been available here for years, but as others have pointed out, it's not really any cheaper to run

    When it comes to switching providers, price should never be the only reason, though it may be the most important one. Other factors such as minimum length of contract and quality of service matter as well. VoIP is cheaper than POTS, Since I made the switch in 2006 I've had more than enough dropped calls or calls with too much interference to gloss over the problems and a VoIP connection requires an individual power supply. The agreed service level in the contract is only 99 % which is one of the reasons why it's cheaper. Nevertheless, network-based VoIP for all new contracts is now standard in Germany.

    The costs should also be given some historical context. I'll bitch as much as the next man about the telcos but costs both in nominal and real terms have come down significantly since the 1990s. I used to pay around DM 0.80 a minute for calls back to the UK. A flatrate for calls within Germany has been standard here since about 2005 and I've had a flatrate for calls (to landlines) for Europe and North America for about the same period.

    Officially I've still got ISDN, though it's run through the FritzBox and doesn't get everything right, notably forwarding the number of a caller when I redirect a call to my mobile. I guess I should start investigating how I can replace the setup (hardware and config) with straight VoIP.

    1. irrelevant

      Re: What is this rant actually about?

      " An alternative, of course, might be to introduce PAYG for landline." ... They did ... and withdrew it again. Look up BT Pay&Call

      FWIW, we're currently with BT for internet & line rental, but only because it worked out cheapest last time round for our pattern of usage. It's been passed around various companies over the years. Our primary telephone number IS a "landline" number, but it was ported to A&A some time back and now comes in via VoIP, ringing on the house phones AND on our mobiles. We never use the number associated with the physical line... that only ever gets wrong numbers.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For some of us a landline is vital - as out in the sticks (well 3 miles from a City) there is no mobile reception.

    I left BT a year ago as I was fed up with how much they charged to call mobiles. I am now with talk talk, for line rental as it was cheaper and they offer inclusive mobile calls.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    is free in Scotland if you contact Trading Standards. You need to experience a -high- level of nuisance calls though and it's primarily aimed at elderly people, so if you've got older family members that suffer from it, get TS on it and they'll fit it, set it up and monitor it for them.

    1. Andy Livingstone

      Re: Truecall

      Some Scottish Councils have closed down all aspects of their Trading Standards Service.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I pay £31 a month to Virgin for the 152MB (allegedly!) broadband connection. I suspect I could get another couple of quid knocked off if I could be bothered ringing up.

    No TV, no Virgin phone line.

    I have several VOIP phones in the house connected to my (not uk!) account.

    They charge you €10 + VAT for 3 months worth of free landline calls to most(?) countries including the UK. Then, when the 3 months is up, calls are soooo cheap the €10 last another 3 months.

    I have a UK number with my local dialing code too - this was a one off £10 IIRC - for incoming calls.

    I watch catch up TV online, no live TV - which granted, isn't everyone's cup of tea.

    No TV Licence required.

    Result is roughly £400 a year / 33 a month for all TV/Telephone/Internet requirements - which I don't think is that bad.

    I could knock the VOIP on the head to be honest - and just use my mobile phone allowance (£10/month through Virgin) but as a home worker I sometimes have long calls to make, and I worry that I might go over my 250 min allowance.

    As it happens, work pay my broadband bill - but I don't think I'd be too bothered if I was paying out of my own pocket.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Easier?

      "I pay £31 a month to Virgin for the 152MB (allegedly!) broadband connection. .... No TV, no Virgin phone line."

      How do you manage that? I investigated getting rid of my Virgin landline, but getting rid of the landline would get rid of my broadband internet connection as well.

      (I'm on FreeCable + Telephone £16pm + Internet £20pm. Last month I made £1.26 of telephone calls.)

  43. AndrueC Silver badge

    Even if you're foolish enough to allow a direct debit

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Why is it foolish to allow direct debits? I'd say that not paying bills through DD is foolish unless you have an unreliable income.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      In my experience, which has involved horrific amounts of overcharging from BT, I wouldn't dream of letting them anywhere near my bank account.

      I've had them apply a call package to my business line without my asking for it, which required a minimum spend. That resulted in a huge bill a year later to make up the minimum spend, hundreds of pounds.

      I've also had them screw up after a fault, removing caller ID from the ISDN line, then reapplying it, and suddenly charging for each of the MSNs instead of for the line.

      If you can't trust the phone company to bill you correctly, you'd be mad to let them help themselves to your bank account. Yes, I know there's a direct debit guarantee, but I'd rather not have to fight to get my own money back. I'd prefer it if they actually billed correctly in the first place.

      As far as I'm concerned, BT have lost that trust. That they then decide I should pay extra because they're untrustworthy is more than a little annoying

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Ah, so you've had some bad experiences. Can't say I ever have. There was once the time that an insurer double charged me but I just called my bank (Barclays) and they refunded the money by next working day. I have heard that some banks can be a pain when it comes to the DD guarantee but my single experience of Barclays suggested that it worked really well.

        Hmmm. I - almost - complement Barclays and BT in one post. That's a bit disturbing :)

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Clawback is a customer right when direct debit is used, though you usually have to sign it off so that the banks can't be made liable if you are using the clawback to default on legitimate charges. If you do, you'll also be hit by the bank with pretty hefty charges.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile Coverage

    I'd love to be able to get rid of our landline however it's really not an option. The mobile signal is just not reliable enough. I've roped in friends for testing purposes just to get a good selection of options. Various Android phones, different models of iPhone and all the networks. It's always the same, decent signal one minute then nothing. I suspect that it's down to the house, 1950's council build, double skin brick walls and internal brick walls all the way up. I've been told that there 'may' be steel joists between the ground and first floors but short of ripping up the laminate flooring and floorboards there's no way of confirming this. So I'm stuck with a landline for the forseeable future. Whatsapp and Viber are not an option as almost none of my contacts use either of them

  45. MJI Silver badge

    Still use our landline

    Saves farting about with mobile phone contracts

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still use our landline

      Buy mobile phone outright, get PAYG SIM (Three, giffgaff etc).

      You can get a mobile for much the same money as you'd pay for the BT tax (line rental).

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Still use our landline

      I still have a landline, I can see no reason to keep using it, but some kind of block stops me from getting rid of it.

      I also still like to watch broadcast TV when it is broadcast, even pre-recorded programmes and repeats.

      It's an age thing.

  46. DaveDaveDave

    Well, someone's desperately reaching

    I didn't read much past this bit


    "Add the ridiculous surcharge of £4 for not paying by direct debit – when a BACS payment costs BT nothing to receive"

    It does, of course, cost any similar company significant sums to chase non-payers, so payments by direct debit are much cheaper for the company to receive, regardless of bank fees.

  47. Benchops

    Cheaper alternative to truecall

    Is CPR Call blocker. One with a display and one without, both with pre-programmed known marketing numbers and you can add new numbers during or just after a call (or add in new numbers). You can also optionally set interntational or withheld or no-info numbers to be blocked. It's not exactly the same as truecall but it has a similar aim.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cheaper alternative to truecall

      CPR call blocker worked fairly well for me but it doesn't have the screening ability. For me that's the big draw with TC. With CPR I'd have had to block all anonymous callers and that was a step too far. With TC they get screened and so far I've not had any marketing types bother to even leave a message. As noted previously my GP's surgery did though.

      But CPR is definitely a more affordable alternative.

  48. This post has been deleted by its author

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I read that as landmines first.

    But yes, landlines seem to get pushed on people by cable companies. The only time they seem to be of use is when the mobile is unable to get a signal.

    Also some credit reference agencies give you a lower score if you don't have one?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Some companies do apparently consider it.

      This is the comment from Experian:

  50. censored

    Answer me this...

    If BT can rent my line to CheapFoneCo for £8.95 a month, which I then rent from CheapFoneCo for £10 a month or whatever, why the hell can't I just rent my line from BT for £8.95?

    1. DaveDaveDave

      Re: Answer me this...

      Have you heard of retail and wholesale?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Answer me this...

        "Have you heard of retail and wholesale?"

        Have you heard of "margin squeeze" ?

        It's arguable that BT is conducting this activity, despite the "chinese wall" between the divisions. Bear in mind that head office can see and act over both sides of the wall.

    2. Tom 38

      Re: Answer me this...

      If BT (wholesale) can rent my line to CheapFoneCo for £8.95 a month, which I then rent from CheapFoneCo for £10 a month or whatever, why the hell can't I just rent my line from BT (retail) for £8.95?

      Because BT Wholesale are not allowed to offer services cheaper to BT Retail than they do to other providers. If BT Retail only charged you £8.95, their would have to be purchasing it at a lower price than £8.95 to account for costs.

  51. Jim 59

    Line rental Costs

    No mention of BT's Line Rental Saver ? Using LRS I get line rental for about £11 per month, lower than any of the figures in the article.

  52. Andy Livingstone

    Sticking with the incumbent.

    Those who are stuck on Market 1 Exchanges have no choice. No competition allowed.

    Ofcom smiles. Competition Authorities and Government bury heads in sand.

  53. ScottME

    Objections to landlines are irrational

    My summary of the article:

    Don't like paying 15 quid a month for a landline you think you don't use (despite the fact that your broadband service comes over it)?

    Then why not pay upwards of £30 a month for a wireless broadband service that probably caps the volume of data you can send and receive, and suffers just as much if not more from multi-user contention, and can only really be expected to work properly if you're unfortunate enough to live in a major population centre?

    If you like, you can also spend hundreds of pounds extra on additional kit to filter out those few spam calls, and why not replace that free router you got from your ISP with a complicated and expensive one that also does VOIP, and then you can subscribe to a VOIP service from someone - oh, did we forget to mention the VOIP subscription charges?


  54. psmyth

    The best way to stop cold calling is to waste the cold caller's time while getting on with your day. You can do this by saying "Yes, my wife is about to file our PPI claim. She is upstairs. Can you hold while I get her?" Just taking one minute out of the caller's day in this way will stop him from pestering three other people and put him out of a job. NEVER PUT THE PHONE DOWN ON THEM. That is what they want, as they need to make progress. Just briefly express genuine interest and ask him to wait, for any reason you like. They always wait at least 30 seconds.

    If you are called by a computer ALWAYS PRESS 5. You will then hear a phone ring in the call centre, and at that point you have already won. Waste the respondent's time again in this case.

    Once you have done this a few times it becomes second nature.

    Here's a link to an example where I wasted several tens of minutes of a cold caller's time with no loss of production on my part:

  55. Joseba4242

    Static IPs

    "It would likely be easier, they think, to issue a fixed IP address by default than to set up an infrastructure of DHCP servers, and then charge a monthly fee not to use them."

    I wouldn't comment on what you think, nor discuss your obvious enjoyment in Big Telco bashing, Let's look at the facts instead.

    Static IP addresses have a number of drawbacks. You need to have them in the first place. RIPE is not going to allocate large amounts of them without significant justification and that just isn't there for the vast majority of customers.

    You need to have systems to assign them and communicate them to your customers.

    You need to have a support organisation that understands them.

    Depending on the network architecture your IP session (PPP or IPoE) can often terminate on different devices (LNSs, BNGs). With static IP addresses you need to have a huge amount of dynamic, deaggregated routing information in your network to get to the right device. Think about millions of /32s if the network. Dynamic addresses are assigned to the device and hence pretty statically routed in your network (and aggregated).

    All of this to satisfy the 0.01% of technically savvy El Reg reading (or writing) customer base. Really?

    1. Tom 38

      Re: Static IPs

      All of this to satisfy the 0.01% of technically savvy El Reg reading (or writing) customer base. Really?

      Nope, not to satisfy that - although it is a wonderful side effect. The main benefit is that you no longer rely on DHCP servers for your users to get service, and therefore your users never have no internet because of an overloaded or poorly configured DHCP server.

      Be used to have innumerable issues with their DHCP servers; as a static IP customer paying £2 extra a month these never affected me.

      Removing components that can fail provides a better service, and is a good thing.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No dialtone required

    Several years ago, I had a BT line with Demon Internet ADSL.

    Once both services were 'out of contract', out of curiosity, I decided to cancel the BT line to see what would happen to the Demon Internet ADSL... The dial-tone disappeared, as expected, yet the Demon Internet ADSL continued to work for another 3 years at which point I moved out of that house and into an area with Virgin Media.

    I'm not suggesting you all go and cancel your landline rental, as I imagine this would cause issues getting any future line faults repaired. It probably also means that BT Openreach would have the right to physically disconnect the copper pair to your house if capacity required it.

    However, it does prove the point that technically, there is no *NEED* to have a dial-tone in order to receive ADSL.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: No dialtone required

      I'm quite surprised it did carry on working; everyone I've spoken to assures me that cancelling a landline will terminate all the associated services on it.

    2. Joseba4242

      Re: No dialtone required

      That's called Left in Jumper. Openreach doesn't bother to disconnect the copper line.

      Technically there is indeed no need for dialtone for ADSL. PSTN and DSL are two independent services using different frequency bands on the same copper pair.

  57. allister ferguson

    How to stop Cold Calls

    If you want to stop cold call... get an answer machine..... most call senders recongise that and disconnect the call immediately.

    Get CLI on your line and everytime you get on with CLI on it mark it as JunkCaller.... you know then not to pick it up.

    The third way...... ask Parliment to increase the cost of calls..... so it is too expensive to waste your time.

    One word of advice....... never be rude to the caller..... because if they have a mind to they will put you back into the Call Sender to be called back and they will put notes on them to say you are very interested but had no time to deal with it and requested a call back...... most of these firm are outside of the UK so our regs do not apply.... :o)

  58. Noodle

    Haven't had a phone line for years

    Landlines are a thing of the past for many here in New Zealand, thanks to ubiquitous 3G and 4G mobile coverage and improving DSL speeds (and soon fibre to the home connections) - certainly for those of us in urban areas. We gave up having a landline about four years ago after we realised we were paying about $30-40 a month for something we never used - we've never missed it. All ISPs here offer a "naked broadband" connection of a line that can only be used for broadband internet. Some offer VOIP style internet phone arrangements instead.

  59. Fihart

    BT tricked me

    In the Reg yesterday I learned that Caller ID is built-in to modern telephony. Yet last Feb BT started imposing a £1.75 pm charge for a service which had previously been free.

    As they hadn't even notified me of this change (apparently there was a note in their free newsletter, but that hardly constitutes a change of contract notice) I complained. And they "kindly" agreed to waive the charge for 12 months if I agreed to stay with BT for the year.

    Last week I received a pre-printed letter about renewing the contract and -- obviously -- this is a widespread issue. It seems plain to me that this added charge was designed to trick existing customers into signing on for an annual contract instead of their existing rolling short notice contract.

    My advice to BT customers is to cancel caller ID and save £21 pa -- the volume of nuisance calls has anyway reduced following legislation.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: BT tricked me

      "In the Reg yesterday I learned that Caller ID is built-in to modern telephony. "

      Not just caller ID.

      ALL the "added value services" are just functions in the telephony switch. There's no cost to the provider for enabling them other than the labour cost of someone doing so (if they were enabled by default they wouldn't cost a thing)

      It's the same scam as charging monthly rental on a telephone which cost £5 or less to procure and supply.

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