Thanks to a Universal Service Obligation, every home in the UK is entitled to have a phone line installed at an affordable price.
It’s incumbent on BT spinoff Openreach (or KCOM, for customers in and around Hull) to install a landline capable of supporting one telephone number and one broadband account.
However, that’s not always sufficient for modern life.
With increasing numbers of people working from home, and multi-generational living on the rise, a solitary landline might struggle to keep everyone happily connected.
Equally, asking business contacts to ring a mobile number isn’t always practical, or professional.
If your house phone is tied up by other family members, or if you’re trying to juggle personal and professional communications at home, a second broadband line or phone line might be useful.
A lack of clarity
In theory, there’s no limit on the number of phone lines entering a property.
In reality, it’s not quite so straightforward.
Openreach rarely accepts enquiries from the general public about such matters, redirecting people to phone and broadband providers like BT.
Despite its unique relationship with Openreach, BT is also less than forthcoming about the costs and practicalities of additional line installation.
The BT website only lists generic information about single lines, and BT’s 167-page Consumer Price Guide doesn’t even mention additional landlines.
Live chat agents redirect enquiries to a different live chat team, who tell people they need to talk to a ‘customer options’ department – which wouldn’t accept incoming calls when we enquired.
Other phone and broadband firms seem equally unprepared for enquiries about second landlines.
None of the major ISPs have published information online about additional line installations.
Searching for “second phone line” on Sky’s website reveals information about caller ID, and a search for “landline installation” on the Post Office website highlights a new range of Star Wars postage stamps.
A new hope
It transpires BT charge £130 to install an additional line, after which normal line rental and call costs apply.
If this seems excessive other phone and broadband companies offer hope.
Most providers will install a second line into a property that already has one, often absorbing much of the charge levied by Openreach.
They believe getting a new customer to take out a package for a year (or even longer) justifies a contribution towards a one-off installation fee.
For instance, Direct Save Telecom will install a new telephone line for £29.95, including VAT.
The physical process
A new line installation generally takes a couple of weeks to action, though waiting times vary by provider throughout the year.
It may be possible to specify a particular room for the line’s master phone socket to be installed in, since this is usually the socket that’ll record the fastest broadband speeds.
Satellite sockets won’t perform quite as efficiently, though the difference won’t be noticeable to most consumers.
A hole will need to be drilled in the building’s external wall – this clearly requires the prior approval of the homeowner, if that’s not you.
There may also be white cabling stapled to skirting boards or doorframes, depending on the property’s layout and where the master socket is going to be situated.
The exception to the rule
Every landline-based phone or broadband provider depends on Openreach installing a physical line into your property – with one exception.
If Virgin Media is cabled in your area, one option is to have an Openreach line plus a Virgin Media line.
Virgin use proprietary fibre cables buried under the street, and this separate physical infrastructure negates any risk of confusion between accounts.
There’ll be two sets of installation fees to pay – and two monthly bills for line rental and calls.
Even so, additional paperwork is a small price to pay for having a second phone line, particularly when they’re as distinct as fibre broadband and landline services.
It also provides a choice between high-speed Virgin broadband/TV, and other providers reliant on the presence of an Openreach landline.
This isn’t an option open to customers in Hull and East Riding, where KCOM has a monopoly on fibre broadband.