Can you get broadband without paying for a landline?

You can get landline-free broadband but beware of falling foul of cancellation policies when chasing a deal.

The simple answer is “yes”, you can get broadband without a landline. Some want to go landline-free because they think it’s cheaper (since you don’t have to pay line rental), but that’s not always the case, and it’s important to shop around. There are other reasons to go landline-free such as higher speeds and ease of access.

Our guide reveals the pros and cons of mobile broadband, fibre and satellite. We’ll also explore Virgin Media, the only company apart from BT in the UK that owns a fibre network.

Do I need a landline to have broadband?

Most of us receive broadband via BT’s Openreach copper wire and fibre optic network. This can mean having an active landline and paying line rental for it. In an age where we’re all wedded to our mobile phones, this can seem to be a redundant service and a wasted cost.

You may wish to go landline-free for a number of reasons. For example, if you live in a remote area with poor broadband coverage or if you’re seeking faster broadband to stream video, play games or run a business. If you do decide to go landline-free, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be cheaper. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules mean broadband providers must include all monthly costs, including line rental, so you may be able to find some good deals if you shop around.

How to get broadband without a landline

Options for going landline-free can be limited. One option is mobile broadband, using the same 4G or 5G network as your mobile phone. Super-fast “full fibre” broadband is available in many, but not all, areas, and doesn’t require a landline. In more remote areas, satellite broadband is an option, but it comes at a price. Virgin Media is the only company in the UK that offers broadband-only deals via its own fibre network.

Mobile broadband as a landline alternative

You can get mobile broadband from a number of providers including EE, Three, O2, Vodafone and Virgin Media. It is typically less reliable than your wired connection, but speeds are getting better and it is about as landline-free as you can get.

One option to get mobile broadband is a dongle. This is a thumb-sized widget that plugs into the USB port of your computer and connects to the Internet. It is a good option if broadband options in your area aren’t great, but mobile signals are okay. It is also a useful add-on if you’re often travelling.

You could also opt for a personal Wi-Fi or Mi-Fi device. This personal hotspot is a small gadget that acts as a mini router. It connects to 4G and 5G networks and broadcasts Wi-Fi, so you can hook up devices such as a laptop or tablet while you’re on the go as well as while you’re at home.

A handful of mobile network operators have recently begun to provide home broadband. While it works on the same principles as mobile broadband, using 4G or 5G data to get you online, these packages come with wireless routers that house a SIM card. Some providers, like Three, Vodafone and EE, offer these plans with unlimited data usage.

Data-only SIM cards are another option. These work like SIM cards for your phone but have a data-only allowance and do not offer phone or text services. All you need to do is pop the SIM card in the SIM port of your iPad or tablet to get online. You can also get PAYG data-only SIM cards for your tablet. You can then load up with an allowance to have a set amount of time (usually 30 days) with data bundles ranging from 250Mb up to 250GB and beyond.

There is plenty of choice, but mobile broadband isn’t perfect. It can have higher latency (lag) than fixed line broadband. Watch out for some providers that impose strict download limits that might not suit if you’re streaming high amounts of video, music or games.

Fibre broadband

Millions of homes have access to super-fast fibre-optic broadband, which sends data along tiny cables made of plastic or glass. You have a choice of providers including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. There are also smaller players such as Hyperoptic.

It’s not available everywhere, and there are many places where the only option is for up to 17Mbps. Most providers offer postcode checkers on their websites, so you can see if superfast is an option.

Many of the fibre-optic bundles (Virgin is a notable exception) still rely on phone lines, so you’re not necessarily ditching the landline or the associated line-rental costs.

So, assuming it’s available, should you consider fibre optic? If you have multiple people sharing an Internet connection at the same time, play a lot of online games and are streaming a lot of online TV, then it may be a good option. Many providers also offer bundle deals, which include TV.

Can I use satellite broadband?

Satellite broadband is available everywhere and does not require a landline. Its ubiquity means it is often touted as a solution in places where conventional broadband coverage is poor or non-existent.

To get online, you’ll need a satellite dish and a transmitter attached to your home. This connects to a satellite orbiting the earth, the type used for weather forecasting, satellite TV broadcasts and GPS.

Arguably, it’s a great solution for hard-to-reach places such as rural locations, although gaming and video streaming could suffer with satellite broadband. Speeds are comparable to ADSL broadband, but latency or lag is high because the signal is travelling thousands of miles to space and back. Bad weather can also cause interference.

Installation is straightforward but can be costly, running to hundreds of pounds. Monthly bills tend to be higher than fixed line, and you may find there are download restrictions.

Providers are limited but include HySpeed Broadband and Freedomsat.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is the only company apart from BT that has its own fibre broadband network, and unlike BT, it doesn’t have to share it. This means there’s no landline required.

Virgin Media offers a range of deals, but don’t expect them to be oodles cheaper than paying for a landline. Promised speeds are superfast with the premium package offering 362Mbps. Some households in limited areas can get speeds of up to 1Gbps with Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre offering. Speeds can vary though, and there’s no guarantee that everyone who pays the premium will get those speeds.

As with all fibre-optic packages, you’ll need to check availability in your area. You can do this on the Virgin Media website. As of July 2021, Virgin Media broadband was available to around 53% of households in the UK.

Can I go landline-free straight away?

Before you go landline-free, there are some important contractual issues to consider, although the process of switching is easier than it used to be – simply ask your existing provider for a MAC code.

You’ll need to check whether your existing contract has expired. If it hasn’t, you might incur charges. Some providers charge an exit fee and will enforce this for a minimum term. This may negate any financial benefits of switching including dumping landline fees.

There are ways that you may be able to avoid cancellation fees for ending your contract early. Notably, if your provider has increased monthly bills by more than inflation, you might be able to cancel within 30 days of being notified of the increase.

Bottom line: It’s getting easier to get landline-free broadband, but you won’t save much money

Depending on where you live, it is possible to get broadband without a landline. It’s worth understanding that if your main reason for wanting to do away with a landline is because you think you’ll save money on your Internet plan, you’re likely to be disappointed. It’s always important to shop around when it comes to broadband suppliers.

Most home broadband connections that don’t require a landline are the fastest types of fibre plans. Much of Virgin Media’s broadband offering comes without needing a landline. This is mainly because Virgin Media owns and operates its own fibre broadband network, without needing to use BT’s telephone network.

If you’re looking for other ways to get connected you may want to explore mobile broadband as a landline alternative. Those in more rural areas may want to consider satellite broadband.

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