Business Phone Lines
For most businesses the telephone continues to be a critically important method of communication.
Although things such as the internet and instant messaging services are making ever-larger impacts in the business world, the phone still remains an essential component of any successful communications process and is likely to be so for the foreseeable future.
However, business phone lines and associated services cost money and can, if not controlled, can prove to be an unnecessarily expensive, particularly if you don’t choose the right provider for your organisation’s needs.
Benefits of Business Phone Lines for Your Business
Many of your customers may not yet be internet literate and might well prefer to do business with you by telephone. Equally, significant numbers of your suppliers and perhaps partner organisations might prefer phone contact to alternatives such as email.
It’s also true that verbal communication is typically a better way of building and maintaining customer and supplier relationships than emails and instant messages which in the long run can be time consuming and lead to more confusion.
So, a business phone system is critical but it may bring with it certain issues of its own.
The first and perhaps most obvious of these is cost. Things such as line rental and call charges can be expensive over time and a serious portion of your total business expenditure.
Then there is the question of reliability. Phone lines that are unreliable, subject to congestion or simply of 1950s quality in terms of things such as clarity and echoing, may not create the right business environment for success in the 21st century.
Fortunately, for several decades now telecommunications services in the UK have been largely deregulated and it is one of the most vibrant, competitive and dynamic sectors of the economy.
There are now a large number of quality providers of business phone lines in the marketplace and that should allow the typical business to shop around and find the best deals.
Finding those deals though may be a little harder than it sounds – at least in part due to the fact that there are so many options to choose from.
The Different Types of Business Phone Lines
There are two main types of telephone lines, each with their own pros and cons and suitably for your organisation will depend on the size and scale of your business:
- PSTN– Also known as POTs or Plain Old Telephone Service, PSTN is an analog based phone line allowing only one call per line and primarily used for voice communications. PSTN has many shortfalls in comparison to modern alternatives.
- ISDN– Short for Integrated Service Digital Network, ISDNs allow voice and data to be transmitted over digital networks, meaning businesses can take advantage of many features that aren’t possible with other types of phone line.
Business Phone Line Prices & Rates
The joint effects of technological advances plus deregulation has meant that in real terms, things such as line rental and call costs have plummeted hugely over recent decades.
For example, it might now be possible to rent a business line for as little as £12 per month (or less) with landline call costs being as low as £0.01-£0.02 per minute and calls to mobiles at around £0.10 per minute.
Of course, the cost will vary depending upon a number of factors such as the nature and capacity of the line you rent, what additional features you require and just how big your business is likely to be each month for the business line provider concerned.
What is clear is that there are a very large number of deals out there and it will typically make sense to look around at a number of different providers and compare their offers.
How to Choose the Best Business Phone Line Provider
Your approach will typically be governed very much by the nature of the business and other telecoms facilities you are looking to purchase.
Important things that it might be wise to look for at the very outset could include:
- Pricing structures and their relationship to your projected business usage. There is little doubt that this will be a major factor for any potential purchaser of business lines but it might be prudent to avoid becoming focused on price exclusively and to also consider some of the following points.
- The range of technical offerings available from the provider. For example, some may be able to offer high-speed and high-bandwidth lines sufficient to support not just voice but also other forms of data traffic.
- The provider’s technical support capabilities. Telecommunications is complicated and just like any technology, subject to occasional glitches and failures. Given that such problems could bring your business to a virtual standstill and prove ruinous if not quickly addressed, being clear as to how your provider will be able to support you in a crisis is important.
All of these factors and several others will need to be given considerable attention as part of your supplier evaluation and eventual decision.
UK Provider ComparisonHere are just a few of the numerous business telephone line providers currently operating in the UK:
BT Business Phone Lines
As a leading provider of business phone lines within the UK BT have a number of options to suit businesses of all sizes. Their phone line solutions vary in price depending on the number of phones included and user lines needed. Length of contract also changes the price with longer options bringing the cost down.
- Standard Business phone line: 500 free UK minutes a month, and capped call rates when the limit has been reached. Users can easily plug in a credit card machine to get paid by their customers. Line rental from £17.00 per month, and £105 for installation without a calling plan.
- Featureline Compact: Ideal for the growing business, and comes with features such as call diversion, 3-way calling, and call waiting. 500 free UK minutes a month and capped call rates when minutes have been used; Line rental from £18.05 a month, and £120 for installation without a calling plan.
- Featureline Standard: Ideal for medium to larger sized enterprises and included benefits such as call transfer, hunt groups, and free international calls. 500 free minutes per month, and capped rates once minutes have been used. Line rental from £20.74 per month, or £120 for installation without a calling plan.
TalkTalk Business offer line installation from £14.50, but businesses have to take a package for broadband, calls & lines, or integrated broadband and calls & lines solutions.
The option to add more features makes TalkTalk option for some but not necessarily all and packages should be compared against other providers
- 1-4 Users – Business Lines & Calls: A business phone line with a choice of call packages with inclusive minutes; peak/Offpeak, Anytime and mobile options; package built to suit business needs.
- 5-50 Users – ISDN Complete: Inclusive calls and lines packages including a generous allowance of call minutes, line rental, and big savings.
- 50+ Users – IP ISDN30: Next Generation telephony service offering savings over 40%; capacity for 30 channels; fully managed service; and huge savings.
Virgin Media Business
Virgin Media Business have a state-of-the-art network offer some of the most competitive tariffs on the market, but users need to have a BT line installed first. Along with their phone lines Virgin Media offer superfast business broadband which includes 24/7 UK support, phone package, and wireless connectivity from £39 a month.
- Supports a single analogue telephone call, fax connection or a 56Kb dial up connection to the internet.
- Pre carrier select gives users the flexibility to choose which calls to route. Routing options for voice traffic include all calls, national call only, international calls only, both national and international calls.
- Users pay line rental to their service provider and Virgin Business bills for call charges.
XLN telecom promise the best telephone deal for small businesses, and combine cheap line rental with competitive call rates to offer users cost effective solutions. If you're looking for a small business phone line comparing XLN against other providers is well worth your time with features specifically designed for organisations still in the growth stage
- Line rental: £3.99 per month combined with low call rates and capped calls. Cheapest line rental in the UK; users keep the same line and number; maintained by BT Openreach engineers; stress free transfer.
- 600 minutes package: Line rental, 600 minutes, and 0870 / 0845 numbers for £14.95 per month.
- Unlimited calls + line rental package: £19.95 per month and includes 0870 / 0845 numbers and 300 free mobile minutes.
Chess Telecom promise to never be beaten on price, and offer low cost business line and call packages. As well as offering cost savings with Chess Telecoms you also get the choice between the different types of lines covered above including ISDN2 and ISDN30
- Line rental: From £3.95 per month and businesses can keep their existing number.
- Line & Calls Bundle: From £11.96 per month and business get free minutes, unlimited call options, and save costs by being able to predict costs.
- Line, Calls & Broadband: From £17.95 and offer unlimited all options, 20Mb broadband, and predictable costs.