Business phone lines buyers’ guide – Everything you need to know about getting the best line at the right price

Whether it’s dealing with client queries, coordinating with suppliers, or communicating internally, getting the best business phone line can significantly influence operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the key considerations when selecting from the best business phone lines, exploring different types of lines and highlighting some of the best providers in the UK.

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What does a business phone line do?

A business phone line is much more than just a means of making and receiving calls. It serves as a crucial communication backbone, supporting various functions essential for daily operations, customer service, and strategic business activities. Here’s an overview of the key functionalities and benefits provided by a business phone line:

Functionality CategorySpecific FunctionDescription and Benefits
Essential CommunicationsVoice CallsThe primary function, allowing clear and reliable communication for handling high call volumes and multiple simultaneous calls.
Conference CallsCapability for hosting multi-party calls, essential for team meetings, client presentations, and strategic discussions.
VoicemailCritical for managing calls during non-availability, with advanced systems allowing voicemail to be converted to email or text.
Enhanced EfficiencyCall Forwarding and RoutingDirects calls to appropriate departments or individuals, improving customer experience and internal call management.
Call Holding and TransferringVital for efficient call management, allowing employees to place callers on hold or transfer to other team members.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)Guides callers through a menu to choose the type of assistance they need, managing call flow effectively.
Remote and Flexible WorkIntegration with Mobile DevicesEnsures employees stay connected regardless of location, essential for businesses with remote or hybrid work models.
Virtual NumbersAllows businesses to have a local presence in different areas without a physical office by routing calls to any designated line.
Customer EngagementCall Analytics and ReportingProvides insights into call patterns which can help improve customer service strategies and resource allocation.
CRM IntegrationEnhances customer interactions by providing immediate access to customer data during calls, integrating communication with CRM data.
Call RecordingUseful for training and quality assurance, helping businesses monitor and improve communication strategies.
Functions of a business phone line

Understanding the types of business phone lines

Before selecting a provider, it’s crucial to understand the different types of business phone lines available:

Traditional landlines (PSTN and ISDN)

  • PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network): Traditional copper wires carry analogue voice data. Ideal for businesses in rural areas where digital connections may not be reliable.
  • ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network): Digital lines that can carry voice, video, and data simultaneously. Suitable for businesses that need multiple lines and have high-quality voice and video requirements.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

Utilises the internet to make and receive calls. Offers flexibility and a host of features like call forwarding, voicemail to email, and video calling. Particularly cost-effective for businesses with high call volumes or international clients.

Virtual numbers

Not tied to a specific phone line; calls to a virtual number can be directed to any chosen phone number. Ideal for businesses with remote workers or those that require a presence in multiple cities without needing physical offices.

Choosing the right type of phone line

The choice of phone line depends on several factors:

  • Business Size and Scale: Larger businesses or those expecting to grow might prefer ISDN or VoIP for their scalability.
  • Call Volume and Type: Businesses that handle large volumes of calls, or international calls, may find VoIP more cost-effective.
  • Location and Infrastructure: For areas with limited internet service, traditional PSTN lines might be more reliable.
  • Budget: VoIP systems generally require less upfront investment compared to traditional lines but require good internet service.

How are business phone lines installed?

  • Physical Installation for Traditional Lines:
    • If you are installing traditional lines (PSTN or ISDN), the provider will schedule an installation date to set up the necessary hardware. This can include running copper lines to your premises and setting up a central PBX (Private Branch Exchange) if required.
  • Hardware Setup for VoIP Systems:
    • VoIP installations might need minimal physical setup if you’re using existing internet infrastructure. However, if new hardware like VoIP phones or adaptors are required, these will need to be installed and configured.
  • Software Configuration:
    • For both VoIP and virtual systems, software configuration is a significant part of the installation process. This might include setting up user accounts, configuring IP phones, and customising features like IVR menus, call routing, and integrating with other business systems like CRM software.

Best business phone lines providers in the UK

When choosing a provider, consider their reputation, customer service, pricing, and the additional features they offer. Here are some of the top business phone line providers in the UK:

BT (British Telecom)

Offers a range of traditional and digital business phone systems. Known for comprehensive customer service and wide coverage, especially beneficial for businesses requiring a robust traditional phone system.

Virgin Media Business

Provides VoIP solutions with a focus on high-speed internet services. Suitable for businesses looking for a combination of high-speed internet and voice services.


Specialises in VoIP solutions with extensive features like internet faxing, web conferencing, and smartphone integrations. Ideal for businesses seeking advanced features.


Offers flexible VoIP solutions for small to medium-sized businesses. Known for its cost-effectiveness and ease of integration with other digital tools.


Another strong contender in the VoIP market, offering scalable solutions that integrate with various cloud-based applications. Excellent for businesses that use a lot of cloud services.

Business phone line costs and fees

When considering a new business phone line, understanding the associated costs and fees is essential to make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and business needs. Here’s a breakdown of the typical expenses you might encounter:

Cost TypeDescriptionPotential Costs
Initial Setup and Installation FeesInstallation ChargesTraditional lines: £100 to £125 per line. VoIP systems may have minimal or no installation fees.
Hardware CostsHandsets and equipment can range from £50 to over £200 each, depending on features.
Recurring ChargesLine RentalMonthly fees vary; traditional lines could be around £15 to £25 per line. VoIP may include line rental in their packages.
Call ChargesPer-minute charges may apply, especially for international calls. Unlimited calling plans may be available.
Service PlansVarious tiers are offered, with more expensive plans including advanced features like call recording and CRM integration.
Additional FeesMaintenance and SupportTraditional systems might require maintenance, while VoIP systems often include remote maintenance in the service package. Premium support may come at an extra cost.
Feature Add-onsAdditional costs for features like advanced call routing, virtual assistants, or extra virtual numbers.
Upgrade FeesCosts associated with scaling up or enhancing the system, such as adding lines or upgrading hardware.
Business phone line costs

Initial setup and installation fees

Installation charges:

  • Traditional lines (PSTN/ISDN): Costs can range from £100 to £125 per line for installation, depending on the complexity of the setup and the physical infrastructure required.
  • VoIP systems: These may have minimal or no installation fees if the system is entirely cloud-based, though physical VoIP systems might incur similar charges to traditional setups.

Hardware costs

  • Handsets and Equipment: Traditional systems require specific handsets that can range from £50 to over £200 each, depending on features. VoIP handsets might be more affordable or even optional if users opt to use softphones or mobile apps.

Recurring charges

Line Rental

  • Businesses typically pay a monthly line rental fee, which varies by provider. For traditional lines, this could be around £15 to £25 per line. VoIP services may include line rental in their packages but check if separate charges apply.

Call charges

  • Per-minute Charges: Traditional and some VoIP providers may charge per minute, especially for international or premium-rate calls.
  • Unlimited Calling Plans: Many VoIP providers offer monthly plans with unlimited calling to certain geographic areas, which can significantly reduce costs for businesses with high call volumes.

Service plans

  • Providers often offer different tiers of service plans, scaling features and support according to price levels. More expensive plans include advanced features like call recording, CRM integration, and premium customer support.

Additional fees

Maintenance and support

  • Traditional systems might require regular maintenance, which can incur additional costs. VoIP systems are typically maintained by the provider, but premium support may come at extra cost.

Feature add-ons

  • Additional features like advanced call routing, virtual assistant, or additional virtual numbers can add to the monthly bill. Ensure you understand what’s included in your base plan.

Upgrade fees

  • Upgrading your system or scaling your operations could require new hardware or increased capacity, leading to further costs.

FAQ about best business phone lines

What are the main types of business phone lines available?

There are primarily three types of business phone lines:

PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network): Traditional analogue phone lines using copper wires.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network): Digital lines that can transmit voice, data, and video over digital networks.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): Phone services delivered over the internet which can include features like call forwarding, voicemail to email, and video calls.

How do I choose the right type of phone line for my business?

Consider factors such as the size of your business, the volume and type of calls you expect, the features you need, and your budget. VoIP is generally better for businesses that need advanced features and have a reliable internet connection, while traditional lines might be preferable for businesses in areas with poor internet service.

What should I look for in a business phone line provider?

Key considerations include the range of features offered, cost, reliability of service, customer support, and the provider’s ability to scale services as your business grows. Also, check provider reviews and feedback from other businesses.

How much does a business phone line cost?

Costs vary based on the type of line, provider, and additional features. Basic VoIP services might start at around £10 per line per month, while traditional lines can cost more due to installation and maintenance fees. Always consider both initial and ongoing costs in your decision.

Can I keep my existing business phone number if I switch providers or move to a VoIP system?

In most cases, yes. Number portability allows you to retain your existing business numbers when switching providers or moving to a different type of phone system. Check with your new provider to ensure they support number portability.

Are business phone lines suitable for remote or home-based businesses?

Yes, particularly VoIP and virtual phone systems, which can be used anywhere with a reliable internet connection. These systems allow remote workers to access business phone services from home or while on the move.

What happens if my internet service is unreliable and I use VoIP?

VoIP performance is heavily dependent on internet quality. If your internet service is unreliable, consider opting for a VoIP provider that offers call continuity features, which use cellular networks as a backup, or consider a traditional line for critical business functions.

How long does it take to install a business phone line?

The time frame can vary from a few hours to several weeks, depending on the type of installation. VoIP systems can be quicker to set up if no physical installation is needed, whereas traditional lines might take longer due to the need to install physical wires.

Can I integrate my business phone line with other systems like CRM?

Yes, many modern VoIP systems offer integration capabilities with CRM software, which can enhance customer relationship management by aligning communication data with customer data.

What kind of maintenance and support can I expect with a business phone line?

Most providers offer customer support and technical assistance, which might include online support, phone support, and even on-site assistance for more complex issues. Maintenance typically involves system updates, troubleshooting, and sometimes hardware replacement.

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