Fixed Lines & Line Rental.

An important thing to mention before we talk about Line types and Line rental is that it’s a common misconception to think that BT owns the UK telephone network. The real owners of the UK network are you, I and the general public!



Originally, the UK network was run and maintained by the government in the guise of The General Post Office, otherwise known as the GPO.

The telecom industry was deregulated in the early 1990’s in order to allow greater competition, with the idea it would benefit the end user by allowing more choice and better pricing. In layman’s terms, BT was given the contract to look after the network and allow access to alternative suppliers, and it later created “OpenReach” as a separate entity to do this.

Openreach operates as a non profit making organisation that favours no supplier over each other. 

Effectively this means that Openreach provides the same services to JabbaTalk (or any other registered telecom provider) with the same timescales and at the same cost, as it does to BT itself. There are now over two thousand telecom companies in the UK who are able to buy services this way. Fixed lines are the ones that are physically cabled into your premises, and they come in two variants. Analogue and Digital.

Analogue Lines are the type that you have in your home and are used to make and receive voice calls, send and receive faxes, and are also the only type of line that can accept Broadband.

Analogue lines are available in Single Line format, where you physically have one number and one line, or in Multiline format, where in essence you can have one single number but have multiple lines to call out or receive calls on. These are either delivered to normal BT line boxes on your wall (like the socket in your house), or to your own Telephone system. They are cheaper to install and rent, and they are also quicker to install, but they don’t support many of the services that a modern day business may want.

There is another type of analogue line that has recently started to become available in the UK, and they are called Local Loop Unbundled Lines (LLU Lines). Until recently, all lines were maintained by Openreach, however an Ofcom ruling a few years ago meant that if a supplier wanted to take control of the last leg of a customers line (the part between the exchange and a customers premises), they could invest in their own equipment and house it in the local exchange. The line from the exchange to a customer’s premises is called the Local Loop, and can now be “unplugged” from Openreach’s equipment and plugged into their own. The advantage of these lines is that they are very cost effective as the supplier now no longer has to pay a “rental” charge to Openreach and can therefore pass that saving onto the customer. Cost is the principle benefit, but you should also be aware that there are no agreements in place to migrate these lines to alternative providers. Should you ever wish to leave the LLU supplier, you will need to pay an installation fee to your new supplier. This is because it takes an engineer to physically move the line from one piece of equipment to another, make tests to ensure the line is ok, etc. It is also worth noting that converting an existing line to this type of line will involve downtime. The most common provider of these lines in the UK is TalkTalk.

JabbaTalk can provide these lines, but along with the obvious cost benefits, we would like you to be aware of what you are actually buying. 

Digital Lines are the type that most growing businesses choose today for their voice telephony. They come in blocks of either 2 channels (called an ISDN2, where a channel is the equivalent to a “line”), or in a circuit which can have up to 30 channels and therefore 30 concurrent calls (called ISDN30). With an ISDN30 you can scale the amount of channels you want to have live, but the minimum you must have from the start and throughout the existence of this circuit type is 8. Digital lines allow the user more flexibility and scalability for future growth and along with more features, like DDI (direct dial inwards – allows you to let your staff have their own number rather than people calling to a switchboard and being patched through), or “Presentation Number” where the number that is presented to the called party, is a different number to the one you are calling from. This is useful for large organisations that have separate departments that handle different parts to your business, for example a technical support call might be made but the number presented should anyone call back, would go to an inbound customer services or switchboard number.

Which is the best line type for me? 

There are lots of factors that come into play here, for example:

  1. Do you already have a system? And if so, can it take digital lines (many older or smaller systems are only suitable for analogue).
  2. Are you likely to expand and require additional lines in the next few years?
  3. Are you prepared to compromise on the services you want?
  4. Do you have a budget? It’s often a false economy if you choose analogue lines for the low cost now, only to have to replace them and your system in the future if your requirements are likely to change.

Ultimately of course, the decision is yours, but you should be aware of all the options and a call to one of the JabbaTalk advisors on 0333 240 1185 to discuss them will place you in a better position to make this choice.

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