What is ‘line rental’? Why do I have to pay it?

14 March 2019

Britons spend only half as much time speaking on landline phones as we did five years ago. So why do most broadband customers still need to pay ‘line rental’, even if we don’t use our home phones?

The reason is that most people’s home broadband and phone services are delivered using the same connections. Line rental is not a charge for your home phone; it’s really the cost of maintaining the wire (or ‘line’) that brings your broadband, landline and even some TV services into your home.

So whether you use the line for broadband, calls or watching TV, your supplier charges you for maintaining it, usually in the form of line rental. This means any faults on the network can usually be repaired without you having to pay a one-off fee.

Since 2016, broadband companies can no longer advertise broadband and line-rental costs separately. Instead, they have to show the full, inclusive cost of taking out a broadband contract. This reflects the fact that line rental is part of the cost of providing broadband. However, some companies still separate this out in their bills.

Graphic illustrating the way line rental works.

Line management

If you use mobile or satellite broadband to connect to the internet at home, you won’t be charged line rental. However, it still costs money to provide these services, so the overall price might not be cheaper than broadband delivered through a physical line.

There are some broadband-only packages out there, which don’t include a landline service. But they generally don’t cost less than a broadband and home phone bundle.

Soaring data use

In 2018, the average household used 240GB of data through fixed broadband, compared to just 23GB in 2012.

While our landline use has halved, the amount of data we use on broadband networks has grown more than ten-fold. At the same time, average household spend on telecoms and TV services has been falling.

Our need for data will keep growing – thanks to ultra-high definition video, cloud computing, home working and music streaming.