Landline vs. mobile: time to ditch the home phone?
Ditching the landline and going totally mobile for voice calling has some obvious advantages. Cost and simplicity are the key ones. Why pay two bills and sign up for two contracts when you can survive with one?
This has been helped by several new, comprehensive mobile phone tariffs that include a large number of cross-network minutes, unlimited texts and internet usage. Take T-Mobile's Full Monty tariff - it offers 2,000 minutes to any network along with unlimited texts and data for £36 per month. This could well be more than enough for many households.
Many providers also offer cheap or free calls to phones on their own network. For example, if you are an Orange pay monthly customer, you'll get to name your own Magic Numbers. These are other Orange numbers that you can call for free, any time, for up to three hours a day. You'll get an additional Magic Number for every six months you stay on an eligible package. O2, Three and T-Mobile all also have similar offers.
Turning to home phones, landline contracts tend not to include cheap or free minutes to mobiles. In fact, most providers will charge a premium or connection charge for such calls.
However Orange has recently broken rank, offering a home phone and broadband plan that gives customers free calls to mobile phones. The deal costs £20 per month if you're not an existing Orange customer or £15 if you are, with £13.50 per month line rental on top. For this you'll get unlimited UK anytime calls (up to a fair usage limit of 1,000 minutes per month), unlimited broadband and 1,000 minutes to mobiles. If you sign up after April this drops to 500.
Yes, £15 or £20 per month on a home phone package is relatively pricey. But combined with a cheap pay as you go mobile deal, this Orange package could be a good choice for those who need free calls to mobiles, but don't necessary require a mobile themselves. And don't forget, it also includes broadband.
Broadband is the main reason why many of us pay for a landline when we don't actually need it. This is because most broadband connections are supplied through phone lines – so you'll need to pay for one, even if you don't use it for voice calling.
The exception to this is the Virgin Media broadband connections that are supplied through fibre optic cabling. As this comes through glass wires and not copper telephone wires, the connection is separate from the landline, meaning you don't need to shell out for one to get the broadband. However the fibre optic network only covers 51% of UK homes. You can check whether yours is covered by heading to the Virgin Media website.
It's also worth pointing out that Virgin does charge extra for broadband if you don't take a phone line. But this is still less than shelling out for both line rental and an internet connection.
Landline calling advantages
Home phone packages may not usually include free mobile minutes, but they do often come packaged with a range of other benefits. Free evening and weekend calls are common one. If I type my postcode into the comparison tool on homephonechoices.co.uk, most of the tariffs that pop up include free evening and weekend calling with line rentals starting from around six to seven pounds. So if you're a heavy weekend and evening home phone user, snapping up a landline deal with free calls at these times could save you a lot.
Landline home phones also offer cheaper calls to premium numbers and free calls to 0800 numbers. For mobiles these charges can often spiral. You may also want a home phone line for emergency purposes – as they are easier to track than mobiles.
So how do mobile and landline packages stack up on price?
The folks at homephonechoices.co.uk have very kindly put together some tables for lovemoney.com comparing the prices of some top home phone packages to mobile tariffs.
As you can see, major price differences only really start to show if you're a heavy user, with the anytime landline plans trumping the mobile phone tariffs. Across light and medium users, the variations in price are more down to what time of the day you use your phone.
As I mentioned earlier, if you spend most evenings and weekends on the blower – a landline package may work well due to the separate time-periods. However if you are after a handset to make calls from at all times and in all places, getting hold of a mobile will probably be a better option.