You want broadband, but you don't need a phone line. Sound familiar? Fortunately, there are ways to get your internet fix without paying extra for a landline.
Broadband providers used to advertise amazingly low monthly rates, conveniently not mentioning the additional £17 a month line rental fee you had to pay on top. Now those rates are required to be folded into the main price, which has made it easier for consumers to tell exactly what they're paying for, but plenty of people still wonder if they could pay less by skipping the line rental altogether.
Alternatives to traditional ADSL promise broadband connections without also demanding that you sign up for a phone line you may well never use. Shop carefully, though, as while such connections are often faster, they aren't always as cheap as you might expect.
How to get broadband without a landline
Landlines are so last century. If you're anything like us, you'll make most of your calls on your mobile phone, and other than that you'll use email, WhatsApp, Hangouts and instant messaging to keep in touch with friends and family. Video calling is easy and - even better - it no longer requires thousands of pounds worth of kit, so you can talk to distant relatives using nothing more than your voice with a cheap smartphone or tablet.
So why do we still pay £17 a month for a landline that few of us use and even fewer actually need? Doesn't it feel like a waste of money to be paying for this on top of your monthly broadband subscription? Isn't it just a con that you can't get online with most of the headline broadband providers without being forced to pay for a hardly-used voice line on top?
Well, we've got news for you. You can stop paying for your landline right away - so long as you're happy to change your broadband provider. If you're not tied in to an ongoing contract with penalties for ducking out early, you should look again at the alternatives to traditional ADSL. We're talking satellite, fibre to the house, cable and the ever expanding wireless 4G network.
As we’ll show you here, it's easy to get online without signing up to ADSL, but before jumping straight in, think carefully about your needs - and about the overall costs, too. Some people may well be better off with an ADSL broadband deal that includes a monthly line rental charge.
If you've spotted service plates in the street bearing the acronym CATV there's a good chance you're living in one of Virgin Media's cabled area, but enter your postcode at store.virginmedia.com to be sure. If you're not yet covered, you can click the Cable My Street button to add support for a roll-out in your direction.
Virgin Media's 'slowest' connections start at 50Mbps (£26 a month / £332 annually including activation, rising after the first year) and top out at a whopping 300Mbps (£47.25 a month / £587 annually including activation). If you're not ready for an annual commitment just yet, Virgin also offers rolling 30-day contracts from £32.25 a month, though there is a one-off £65 activation fee.
None of them requires a landline, however signing up for one does reduce the cost of the broadband. For example, the cheapest 12-month contract including a phone line is just £29 per month - only £3 more. At the time of writing, the 100Mpbs plan is actually cheaper (well, by 25p per month) for the first year if you include a phone line.
For the sake of comparison to a traditional broadband provider, Plusnet's unlimited broadband and calls package, with download speeds of up to 17Mbps and free weekend calls, costs £25 a month for a 12-month term. That's £300 over your first year, plus a £10 activation fee, for a grand total of £310 without the need to pay ongoing costs for equipment rental.
Upgrading to its 12-month fibre contract with speeds touching 40Mbps ups the annual cost to £427 (£33.50 a month with a £25 activation fee). That's cheaper than a single year's commitment to satellite broadband, and costs far less.
It's also worth pointing out that while Plusnet and other providers often advertise broadband without a phone line, you still need line rental to get online - it's just allowing you to buy broadband while paying someone else for line rental, which is unlikely to offer you great value.
4G and mobile Wi-Fi
Cellular connections are by far the most flexible option, as you can take them with you wherever you go. Just be wary of the fact that as Britain's 4G rollout remains incomplete, performance will vary from place to place and you may well find yourself stepping back to slower 3G.
Relish is a dedicated 4G broadband provider serving central London (check your coverage here), which claims that 'no-one else had as much 4G spectrum as we do, or as much capacity'. So, if you live or work in its area it's a tempting proposition - not least on account of its competitive prices.
There's no set-up fee, and just one speed - up to 40Mbps. It costs either £20 per month with a 12-month contract, or £22 per month for a rolling 30-day deal - though you'll then have to pay an extra £50 for the router. Pay up front, then, and your first year of coverage is £240, all in, with no restrictions on how much data you use.
A few of the major mobile providers also offer 4G broadband services, usually branded as mobile Wi-Fi. You can also buy separate mobile Wi-Fi routers to pair with a data SIM you buy separately - we've rounded up a few of the best mobile Wi-Fi routers if you want to find out more.
Prices vary between the models, but we'll look at the standard 4GEE, which is the one you'll probably want if you're looking to create a Wi-Fi network at home. It starts from just £12 per month on a 24-month contract, with £49.99 upfront, though that only gets you 2GB of data. That works out at £194 per year.
There's better value if you go up to 15GB of data, which will set you back £23 per month with no upfront cost - £276 for a year. Doubling the data to 30GB as part of a 4GEE Max plan costs an extra £6 per month, for an annual cost of £348.
Vodafone offers a similar mobile Wi-Fi service, though with slightly different rates across its 24-month contracts. The cheapest plan offers 2GB of data for £11 a month with £20 upfront (£152 annually) going all the way up to 50GB of data for £30 per month, with no upfront (£360 annually).
None of these prices is extortionate when you consider the convenience of being able to create a Wi-Fi hotspot wherever and whenever you need. Beware, though, that with a few catch-up downloads, some music streaming and a bit of YouTube action, you'll quickly eat through your monthly allowance.
The convenience also comes at a price - the 4GEE 30GB plan costs slightly more per year than Virgin's cheapest, which includes unlimited data and much faster potential download speeds, so a 4G plan is really only preferable if you either have very light data requirements, or need to be able to take your network with you.
Three also offers mobile Wi-Fi, but more interesting is its HomeFi, which as you might have guessed, isn't designed to be portable. Unlike its rivals it offers 12-month contracts at a flat rate: 40GB data for £24 per month, with nothing upfront (£288 annually). You can also get a rolling 30-day contract for the exact same rate, though you'll have to pay £59.99 for the hardware.
The annual contract still works out only £44 cheaper than Virgin's 50Mbps plan across the year though, for slower speeds and stricter data restrictions, so even HomeFi is only worth it if you just don't have access to Virgin or ADSL in your area.
Ten years ago, satellite broadband would have been your only option if you lived far away from a major town or city, but as access by traditional means has gotten both faster and more comprehensive it's now just one of several choices for most of us.
At the budget end, Avonline Broadband’s entry-level service gets you 5GB of data with downloads maxing out at 15Mbps and uploads at 2Mbps upload. It’s a 24-month contract, at £19.95 a month, with an initial connection fee of £39.99. The price may be tempting, but neither the speeds nor the cap compare favourably with a lot of regular ADSL.
If you care more about speed, you can get a Superfast package starting from £29.95 per month - that gets you 10GB data, uncapped overnight, with download speeds of 30Mbps and uploads of 2Mbps. Or you can opt for uncapped email and browsing round the clock for £99.95 a month, with a 100GB cap on other data, such as streamed media, at a slightly lower speed of 22Mbps.
Multiply those prices by 24 months to find out what they'll cost you over a standard contract and you're looking at £479 at the lower end, but that's not all. You'll need to add on the £39.99 connection charge, either £6 a month to rent the necessary hardware (or £349.99 to buy it outright), £139.99 for installation, and £49.95 if you want to cut your commitment from 24 months to 12.
That means that the absolute cheapest you can manage is £802 for two years of service, or £541 to cut it down to a single year's commitment. All in all, it works out rather expensive when compared to ADSL and a landline combined.
Satellite might save you the cost of a landline you'll never use, but unless you live in one of the increasingly rare spots where reliable broadband still isn't an option, it's struggling to compete in the speed versus value equation.
Fibre to the building
Perhaps the most exciting of all the options is fibre to the building. We're not talking about BT Infinity or Virgin Media here, but a dedicated fibre line running directly to your router.
Hyperoptic offers synchronous connections up to 1Gbps flat out. That means that there's no difference in the speed of uploads and download the way there is with ADSL, and you shouldn't see any degradation in the speed of the service as you move away from the connection point, either. It's worth pointing out though that you won't be able to enjoy those speeds over Wi-Fi - only wired devices will be able to make the most of the full brunt of the 1Gbps connection.
Prices for the top speed start at £48 a month for the first 12 months, and £63 a month thereafter, but if that's more than you need, you can step down to 100Mbps for £27 a month for the first 12 months (£38 a month thereafter), or 20Mbps for £20 a month for the first 12 months (£25 a month thereafter). In each case, there's free installation and connection to the service.
At the top end of the scale, then, you're looking at a year one cost of £576 - roughly what you'd be paying for the 300Mbps deal with Virgin Media, while enjoying far higher speeds. The mid-range package costs a total of £324 in the first year, while the cheapest is £240, both of which are excellent value for money.
But there is a catch.
Because it's building its own fibre network, Hyperoptic is concentrating on multi-dwelling buildings and, requires enough residents to express interest in the service before it will commit to installing anything.
Its service is currently installed in 100,000 homes spread across 1,000 buildings, and if yours is among them you'll already know. If it's not, and you live in a block of flats, your best bet is to enter your postcode at hyperoptic.com, fill in the form to register your interest in the service and get your neighbours to do the same. If you live in a terrace, semi or detached house, though, don't get your hopes up just yet.
Are landlines a necessary evil?
So it's not as clear cut as you might think. Yes, a lot of us are paying for landlines that we don't use, and that hurts, but the alternatives aren't always better value for money.
Fibre to the home is the fastest option since it's 21st century technology all the way from the exchange to your router, rather than fibre to the cabinet in your street, and limiting copper (which can't push downloads beyond 76Mbit/sec) from there to your house.
Cable has better coverage, and again it's faster than ADSL at present, but it's not been rolled out nationwide. And then there's 4G, which can't be beaten for convenience. Unless you're in central London, though, you may find the data caps restrictive and the coverage variable.
Which brings us back to traditional ADSL. It doesn't make the extra costs any easier to swallow, but at least you can console yourself with the thought that your landline fee is paying to maintain the line from your house to the nearest box on the street, which the fee for a traditional ADSL contract almost certainly isn't. In that respect you can think of it as a digital standing charge, like the one you pay to hook up your home to the National Grid, the gas lines and the water supply - or, indeed, the road tax you pay to drive your car.