Tom Melhuish 8 min read

How to get broadband without a landline

In the UK, everyone has the right to access broadband and telephone services at an affordable price. This law is known as the Universal Services Obligation.

However, the law may soon become obsolete as mobile broadband (which doesn’t require a landline connection) rapidly grows on par with the expansion of high-speed 5G cellular networks.

The Universal Services Obligation is carried out by Openreach – the landline provider to the UK. Over 650 broadband providers use the Openreach landline network to provide broadband, but other options exist and are potentially better.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the development of landline broadband and compare this to alternative (and potentially better) ways to get a broadband connection without using a landline.

Let’s start with the basics. What does a landline mean?

What is a landline?

A landline is a fixed national telephone network (as opposed to a mobile phone that doesn’t use physical cables) that includes traditional copper wires and modern fibre-optic cables.

The landline in the UK is called the Openreach network, which allows you to make phone calls from your home and connects you to the internet. The nature of these landlines in the UK is changing. By 2025, the analogue landline network will be retired and replaced by digital phone lines. (This change is called “the big switch off”)

Let’s start with a quick explanation of a ‘traditional’ landline.

Analogue landlines

The analogue landline network is a copper cable connected to most homes, which connects to a national analogue phone network. An analogue landline:

  • It provides a slow ADSL broadband connection
  • Connects analogue telephone calls

This older communications technology is being replaced because fibre-optic cables provide a much clearer, faster connection for both phone and broadband.

Digital landlines

The digital landlines will use fibre-optic cables to transmit digital signals. Digital landlines still provide the two primary functions of analogue landlines but do this by:

Most UK homes already have access to these landline fibre-optic cables. Here’s Openreach’s page on the current status of the fibre rollout.

Your landlines rights

The Telephony Universal Service Obligation in the 2003 Communications Act provides that all homes in the UK must have access to telephone services at an affordable price using the BT/Openreach network (with the exception of Hull that, weirdly, uses KCOM instead)

Which broadband providers use the Openreach landline network?

Openreach is part of the BT Group of companies that includes broadband brands BT Broadband, Plusnet and EE broadband, which all use the Openreach network to provide their ADSL, GFast and fibre-optic broadband services.

Additionally, Openreach provides the infrastructure used by lots of other broadband brands. Over 650 broadband brands use the network, including big brands such as Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone.

But the key point of this article is there are other (and potentially better) ways of getting broadband.

Options for broadband without a landline

Now we’ve cleared up what the landline is (the telephone and broadband networks provided by Openreach), let’s explore options for a broadband connection not using a landline:

Mobile broadband

The advent of 5G technology now provides a broadband connection with fast enough download speeds and low enough latency to provide a genuine alternative to a landline broadband connection.

You can take advantage of mobile broadband by purchasing a dongle or MiFi device that uses a SIM card to connect your devices to the 5G network.

Cable broadband

Virgin Media alone provides a cable broadband service available to approximately 60% of all UK homes.

Virgin Media’s cable network provides a Gigabit internet service (up to 1,000 Mbps), roughly equivalent to the fastest broadband currently provided by Openreach.

Full-fibre network providers broadband

A handful of disrupting broadband network providers are rolling out private full-fibre broadband networks in major UK cities. Youfibre, Gigaclear, and Hyperoptic are examples of this.

With a full-fibre broadband connection, the fibre-optic cables connect directly to your home. Although this requires a physical cable installation, it provides unparalleled broadband speeds.

Satellite broadband

Elon Musk’s dream of a global broadband service is fast becoming a reality.

Homes and businesses across the UK can connect to a Starlink broadband connection from anywhere within the country’s landmass. Starlink provides broader internet coverage compared with all the other options on this list.

The downside is the initial cost of buying the hardware and a higher monthly cost.

Its competitor, OneWeb, will also likely launch a similar service soon.

Can you just have broadband without paying for phone service?

Yes, no matter what type of broadband connection you choose, there’s no need to sign up for a home phone service.

Even if you choose a broadband service that uses the Openreach landline network to provide broadband, you don’t have to have a phone service.

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