Fixed landline business telecommunications services

by Crucible Multimedia

A "fixed line" telephone, also known as a landline, is a standard telephone used over the "wired" telephone network. 

How do I choose a service provider?

The public telephone network was operated by British Telecom until 1984, when the industry was opened up to competition. The market is made up of a multitude of operators (or telcos), split into network providers, which supply services direct to the premises, and service providers or "billing only" telcos, which use the infrastructure supplied by network providers. 

BT is still the biggest network provider, but alternative providers, including cable TV companies, have entered the market in several parts of the UK, including AT&T, Cable & Wireless (formerly Mercury), NTL and Telewest (now merged under the Virgin Media banner).
If you have a BT line, you may choose a different service provider to carry the calls themselves, regardless of where your business is based. These 'billing only' services can be accessed in two ways -

There are many operators to choose from. Since Oftel funding for TelecomsAdvice ceased when it merged into Ofcom our commercial division has started providing a telecoms bill analysis and brokerage service for business, using several selected telcos chosen for their consistently good Quality of Service performance in Ofcom surveys, competitive pricing and overall value for money. For a more complete list see our own ICT Directory or visit Magenta System's collection of telecoms links. We have also put together a list of websites that aim to help you determine if a particular operator or service is available in your area - see how to find out where telecoms services are available.

How much will it all cost?

Costs for fixed line telephones are made up of the cost of the telephone equipment and maintenance, line rental and call charges.

The telephone itself can cost as little as GBP10 for a basic model, to over GBP100 for a cordless phone or a combined telephone and answer machine. If you have more than one external line or several extensions you may need a PBX (private branch exchange) at a cost of GBP200 and upwards depending on the number of lines, extensions and features.

Line rental charges for business customers can cost up to GBP45 per quarter per line, depending on location and the number of lines. Installing a new line can cost around GBP115, but if your business is located in a very remote area the cost of connection may be substantially more than this.

Call charges vary greatly; most telecoms companies (telcos) offer a range of discount packages depending on value of annual business and contract commitment. Remember, you don't have to make calls using the same company who actually supplies the line; you can also use an indirect operator who may market their services through a network of resellers.

Comparing call costs

With such a wide range of providers and packages on offer, it is not surprising that a number of independent tariff information sources have been put together to help you make comparisons, including  -

Remember that line rental and call charges are not the only indicators of the size of your final bill - most providers offer a range of discount packages that may allow you to make further savings. The cable companies may offer a good value all-inclusive TV and telephone package.

Comparing quality of service                      

Quality of service is an important issue when choosing a telecoms supplier, especially for businesses, where reliable communications are essential. There are a number of factors to bear in mind in addition to costs. For example, cheaper calls often use compression techniques (essentially transmitting multiple calls over bandwidth normally used for one call), or voice over Internet, which can result in a notable reduction in quality. If the quality of the phone call is very important (perhaps language differences with international customers or suppliers mean clarity is vital) then make sure you get the right balance between cheap calls and quality of service.

Comparable Performance Indicators (CPIs) have been withdrawn - the closest we can find is Ofcom's annual reports on consumer experience of the fixed and mobile, internet and digital broadcasting markets.

Note: All above prices are inclusive of VAT where not indicated otherwise. These are suggested prices that aim to give an idea of what you can expect to pay. The cost of many of these services is changing rapidly, so you should check with potential suppliers for the latest prices before signing up for new services.

Reviewed January 2011

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last updated : 21/01/2011

See also our UK ICT Directory for supplier lists and links

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