Landlines are so last century. You probably make most of your calls on your smartphone and use messaging services such as WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends and family. Video calling is easy and 'free', so you can talk to distant relatives using nothing more than a cheap smartphone or tablet and Skype or FaceTime.
So why do we still pay almost £20 a month for a landline phone that few of us use and even fewer actually need? Doesn't it feel like a waste of money to be paying for this on top of your monthly broadband subscription? Isn't it just a con that you can't get internet with some broadband providers without being forced to pay for line rental on top?
Well, we've got news for you. You can stop paying a line rental fee right away - so long as you're happy to change your broadband provider. If you're not tied in to an ongoing contract with penalties for ducking out early, you can look again at the alternatives to traditional ADSL. We're talking satellite, fibre, cable and the ever expanding wireless 4G network.
These alternatives give you internet without also demanding that you sign up for a phone line you may well never use. Shop carefully, though, as while such connections are often faster, they aren't always as cheap as you might expect.
Put simply, you might well find that it is cheaper to get internet even if you have to pay the line rental charge. Use our deal finder below - click the 'Broadband only' option - to see what you can get in your area, but read on to find out more about the different types of package, and their pros and cons.
If you've spotted those triangular plates in the street bearing the acronym CATV there's a good chance you're living in one of Virgin Media's cabled area, but enter your postcode on Virgin's site to be sure.
Virgin Media's 'slowest' connections start at 50Mbps (£33 a month / £416 annually including activation, rising after the first year) and top out at a whopping 350Mbps (£48 a month / £596 annually including activation). If you're not ready for an annual commitment just yet, Virgin also offers rolling 30-day contracts from £33 a month, though there is a one-off £65 activation fee.
Here are Virgin's current 12-month contracts - don't click, this is just a sample image!
None of them requires a landline, however signing up for one does reduce the cost of the broadband. For example, the cheapest 12-month contract including a phone line is just £29 per month. But this rises to £40 per month after the first year.
For the sake of comparison to a traditional broadband provider, Plusnet's unlimited Fibre package, with download speeds of around 36Mbps, costs £24.99 a month for a 12-month term. That includes line rental and with the £9.95 activation fee, works out at a grand total of £310. That's almost £100 cheaper than Virgin's cheapest offer.
4G and mobile Wi-Fi
Mobile broadband is by far the most flexible option, as you can use this wherever you go. Just be wary of the fact that 4G isn't available everywhere and performance will vary from place to place. You will find your phone stepping back to slower 3G - or worse - as you travel around.
You might get enough 4G data already with your SIM deal (or phone contract) but we're not really talking phone contracts here: we're talking data-only packages.
These might be designed for tablets, or mobile Wi-Fi routers, often called Mi-Fi or mobile Wi-Fi. We've rounded up a few of the best mobile Wi-Fi routers if you want to find out more.
There's also the 4GEE Home Router, which is the one you'll probably want if you're looking to create a Wi-Fi network at home. It starts from £45 per month on an 18-month contract, with no upfront cost and with 50GB of data. That works out at £540 per year.
Vodafone offers a similar mobile Wi-Fi service, but no dedicated home 4G service. The 50GB plan costs £30 per month with no upfront cost, but you're tied in for 12 months.
Three also offers mobile Wi-Fi, but more interesting is its HomeFi, which as you might have guessed, isn't designed to be portable. It offers 12-month contracts at a flat rate: 40GB data for £28 per month, with a £29 upfront cost (£365 annually). You can also get a rolling 30-day contract for the exact same rate, though you'll have to pay £59 for the hardware.
The annual contract still works out cheaper than Virgin's 50Mbps plan across the year though, for slower speeds and stricter data restrictions, so even HomeFi is only worth it if you just don't have access to Virgin or ADSL in your area.
For the Mi-Fi services, when you consider the convenience of being able to create a Wi-Fi hotspot wherever and whenever you need, the prices aren't bad. Beware, though, that with a few catch-up downloads, some music streaming and a bit of YouTube action, you'll quickly eat through your monthly allowance.
Relish is a dedicated 4G broadband provider serving central London and Swindon (check your coverage here), which offers unlimited data. So, if you live or work in these areas it's a tempting proposition - not least on account of its competitive prices.
It's not a mobile package: you get a router as with other home broadband, but it uses 4G instead of a physical wire. It costs either £22 per month with a 12-month contract, or the same for a rolling 30-day deal - though you'll then have to pay an extra £70 for the router. Pay up front, then, and your first year of coverage is £264, all in, with no restrictions on how much data you use.
Ten years ago, satellite broadband would have been your only option if you lived far away from a major town or city, but as access by traditional means has gotten both faster and more comprehensive it's now just one of several choices for most of us.
At the budget end, Bigblu’s entry-level service gets you 10GB of peak-time data with downloads maxing out at 30Mbps and uploads at 2Mbps upload.There's unlimited data between 1-6am every night though.
It costs £29.95 a month, with an initial connection fee of £39.99. The price may be tempting, but neither the speeds nor the cap compare favourably with ADSL.
Satellite might save you the cost of a landline you'll never use, but unless you live in one of the increasingly rare spots where reliable broadband still isn't an option, it's struggling to compete in the speed versus value equation.
Fibre to the building
Perhaps the most exciting of all the options is fibre to the building. We're not talking about BT Infinity or Virgin Media here, but a dedicated fibre line running directly to your router.
Hyperoptic offers synchronous connections up to 1Gbps flat out. That means that there's no difference in the speed of uploads and download the way there is with ADSL. It's worth pointing out though that you won't be able to enjoy those speeds over Wi-Fi - only wired devices will be able to make the most of the full brunt of the 1Gbps connection, and only if your home network is properly equipped with gigabit cabling and hardware.
Prices for the top speed start at £48 a month for the first 12 months, and £60 a month thereafter, but if that's more than you need, you can step down to 150Mbps for £28 a month for the first 12 months (£35 a month thereafter), or 30Mbps for £19 a month for the first 12 months (£22 a month thereafter). In each case, there's a £40 activation fee.
Don't click the buttons below - this is just a sample image:
At the top end of the scale, then, you're looking at a year one cost of £616 - roughly what you'd be paying for the 350Mbps deal with Virgin Media, while enjoying far higher speeds. The mid-range package costs a total of £376 in the first year, while the cheapest is £268, both of which are excellent value for money.
But there is a catch.
Because it's building its own fibre network, Hyperoptic is concentrating on multi-dwelling buildings and, requires enough residents to express interest in the service before it will commit to installing anything.
Its service is currently installed in 100,000 homes spread across 1,000 buildings, and if yours is among them you'll already know. If it's not, and you live in a block of flats, your best bet is to enter your postcode on Hyperoptic's site, fill in the form to register your interest in the service and get your neighbours to do the same. If you live in a terrace, semi or detached house, though, don't get your hopes up just yet.
Are landlines a necessary evil?
So it's not as clear cut as you might think. Yes, a lot of us are paying for landlines that we don't use, and that hurts, but the alternatives aren't always better value for money.
Fibre to the home is the fastest option since it's 21st century technology all the way from the exchange to your router, rather than fibre to the cabinet in your street, and limiting copper (which can't push downloads beyond 76Mbit/s) from there to your house.
Cable has better coverage, and again it's faster than ADSL at present, but it's not been rolled out everywhere. And then there's 4G, which can't be beaten for convenience. Unless you're in central London, though, you may find the data caps restrictive and the speed and coverage too variable.
Which brings us back to traditional ADSL. It doesn't make the line rental any easier to swallow, but at least you can console yourself with the thought that your landline fee is paying to maintain the line from your house to the nearest box on the street. In that respect you can think of it as a digital standing charge, like the one you pay to hook up your home to the National Grid, the gas lines and the water supply - or, indeed, the Vehicle Tax you pay to drive your car on the road.