Poll finds 60% of Brits have landline only for broadband

telephone cordless©iStock.com/ZekaG

A STUDY conducted by internet service provider (ISP) Relish has found that 60% of UK people take a line rental only for the sake of receiving broadband.

simon chandler
By Simon Chandler

In addition, the survey also found that 18% of the people it quizzed can't even remember their home phone number, and that 36% of them use their home phone only once a month.

Such results strongly suggest that the landline has become an irrelevance to most Brits, and that they're being forced to pay for something that don't really need, mostly because Openreach still use a copper telephone network to connect people to the internet.

However, two points are worth noting against them: that Relish are a broadband-only ISP with a financial interest in downplaying the need for a line rental, and that there are some options (besides Relish) for those who want broadband without having to pay for a phone line.

Our survey said

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Despite these reservations, it's interesting to see that the number of people reporting a disinterest in their landlines has increased since 2014, when 40% of respondents said they had a landline only because they wanted broadband.

While such changes might imply that the UK is gradually nearing the point where it'll have to dispose of landlines completely, there have been some unexpected fluctuations in recent Relish studies.

For example, in a survey [PDF] from early 2015 meant to underline how customers underestimate the cost of their line rentals, it was stated that "one in four" people didn't know their home phone number, whereas now this can be said of only 18% of people.

If nothing else, this unexpected decrease in ignorance underlines the occasional unreliability of polls.

Still, even if the percentage of people who don't really want a landline isn't quite 60%, the research nonetheless indicates that it's still significant enough to warrant considerable attention.

Yet given that people do seem to underestimate the cost of their landlines, it's likely that it doesn't receive this attention, and that line rentals will continue to be accepted even though many people don't want them.

In fact, this inattention may increase now that the Advertising Standards Authority have ordered ISPs to combine monthly line rental costs with those of basic broadband services in their advertisements.

This may help customers to learn the total cost of their broadband, yet at the same time it might hide the separate cost of a component they don't necessarily need.

Copper networks

Of course, those ISPs who use Openreach's copper-based network will argue that they do in fact need it, since without the telephone lines no customer would actually be able to receive broadband signals.

This may be true, but it can be counter-argued that the need for a telephone is a relic of Openreach's broadband network, which despite being fibre-based also requires the use of copper phone lines in the vast majority of cases.

This is because Openreach is mainly a fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband network, meaning that fibre-optic cables are run to the cabinet and then a copper phone line is run from the cabinet to the customer's home.

And since most ISPs - from BT to Sky and TalkTalk - use this network, their customers do actually need the landline, even though they're making fewer calls using it.

In other words, Relish's study is a little misleading, especially when their Head of Brand and Consumer Marketing has framed it by saying, "It is ridiculous to think that today anyone would be paying for a service they don't use".

However, it could certainly be said that the study reaffirms the need for Openreach to make their network fully fibre, as everyone from the UK's Digital Minister to the anti-BT Fix Britain's Internet have been arguing recently.

Alternatives

Unfortunately, with their commitment to G.fast rather than a purely fibre-optic network, it seems as though Openreach and BT won't be getting rid of the landline anytime soon.

Luckily, there are a small handful of options for those who don't want to pay extra for a voice-call service they don't need, and rather than focusing solely on Relish, we'll turn to solutions other than their 4G wireless network.

As far as ISPs go, Virgin Media is the only major provider to offer broadband only, since they use their own network, which uses cable rather than copper to connect to homes.

However, as we've written in the past, this doesn't necessarily make them any cheaper than ISPs on the Openreach network.

A cheaper option is mobile broadband, which is available from most major ISPs and generally comes in the form of a USB dongle you attach to your computer.

Then again, it often comes with data limits and isn't always that reliable in terms of speed, so it may not be a genuine alternative for many customers.

And ultimately, since it's not as dependable as fixed-line broadband, we may find that most of us will be paying for a home phone we don't necessarily need for a few more years to come.

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