Small business secrets...

Business phone lines explained: landlines vs digital phone lines

Posted by Amina Addow on Jan 12, 2021 3:04:00 PM
Amina Addow
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For start-ups and small businesses choosing a phone number is often one of the first decisions.  After all, this will be used for reaching and keeping in contact with customers, employees, suppliers, etc.  Much like a professional and branded domain name and email, a phone number identifies and reflects your business (read why NOT to use a mobile number). 

Typically, the decision of selecting a business phone number was closely associated with the trading location of the business as landlines were, by definition, tied to a premise...but no longer is this the case.

As the UK business environment continues to ‘go digital’ so too are business phone lines. In fact, by 2025 all UK landlines will need to be a digital line as our telephone network advances in the largest digitisation to date.

To help business owners and managers of small businesses, we’ve come up with our guide to explain business phone lines - traditional copper landline telephones vs digital telephone lines. WARNING… you’re going to want a digital phone line for your business after reading this article!


Traditional telephone lines - Copper lines

Copper lines (or traditional telephone lines) transmit audio data by wires which run underground and connect to every other landline phone across the world through networks, known as Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). This form of communication is considered reliable and one of the prominent features although there haven’t been many technological advances.

This telephone network often needs a specialist engineer to attend the property to install and maintain as the copper lines are underground and need added maintenance.

Digital telephone lines - Virtual and VoIP

Digital landlines, known as Voice Over Internet Protocol -(VoIP) is a phone system that transmits voice data (calls, etc) over the internet or data (3G/4G/5G+) rather than physical copper lines. This means calls from any device (mobile, laptop, IP phones) anywhere in the world as long as there is a stable internet connection or mobile data. These digital and virtual phone lines, unlike copper landlines, have had a host of technologically advanced features added over the years, and are much better suited for business communications - Call conferencing, professional greetings, caller dial menus and call recording.

Set up of a VoIP phone system is relatively easy and can be done remotely by your VoIP supplier, this is usually free and requires no mandatory hardware. Offering a much cheaper solution compared to traditional telephone lines.

Advantage of a traditional landline

Simple to use...

Traditional copper landlines, after you’ve paid to have them installed, waited for weeks for an installation appointment, and had the engineer arrive (usually delayed) to connect the line are easier to use…Sorry we’re having trouble writing this… we don’t see any benefit to a traditional copper landline for businesses in 2021... in fact, the industry doesn’t hence the shift to shut down the legacy PSTN network in the UK by 2025.

Here are more reasons the world is moving away from traditional telephony to digital, virtual VOIP phone lines for businesses:


The landline system has barely changed since it's conception. For example, to have access to a new line an engineer would have to physically install one incurring costs. There has been an increasing demand for remote work which traditional lines cannot accommodate for due to fixed lines. Furthermore, traditional landlines don't have additional features to streamline and better business operations. 


The cost of a landline is much higher than VoIP. The cost of domestic calls is high and international calls are even higher. Digital phone lines (VoIP) have low costs and some packages offer international minutes at no additional cost. There is also a higher cost to fix and maintain landlines because it requires an engineer to fix the wires.

Lack of telephone extensions and features

In contrast with VoIP features, traditional landlines have basic features such as call forwarding, blocking, three-way calls, and waiting messages but that’s about it. Not to mention that these features are usually an added cost. For example, having to transfer the line to another user. These additional costs make maintaining a landline that much more expensive.

Fixed to a location

Landlines have to be connected by wire in a specific location. There is no way to take it with you which means you are fixed to a spot. Making remote work very difficult and added costs of maintaining an office space. This often means that when a small business does move premises, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to keep their phone number, incur expensive relocation costs, or placing call diverts which rack up on bills.

Benefits of digital, virtual VoIP phone lines:


Digital landlines (VoIP) offers lower rates on local/national and mobile calls but also on international calls compared to traditional phone lines. There are many reasons why this solution is cheaper, one being that there is no need for an engineer to set it up. All users and features are set up by the providers leaving you to focus on your business and minimise any downtime.

Easy set-up

A common concern small businesses have towards VoIP is that the switch from landline to VoIP is confusing. However, VoIP phone systems are actually very easy to install due to not needing the same hardware for landlines. The handsets connect to the internet and are all easily managed from a PC or laptop. For hosted services, all of this is maintained by the provider from installation to maintenance of the overall system.

Call management features

VoIP has 50+ features that help to manage calls and many other tools. All of these features help your small business run more efficiently and make the customer journey easier. From call queues to virtual receptionist can help streamline processes and allow the customer to get through to the right place. The latter minimizes customer wait times and helps prevent missed calls.

Myth about digital phone lines and VoIP

Power outages...

There’s a common misconception that during internet outages you’d lose access to your phone system. In fact, because VoIP has different data centres across the UK, these can be easily switched across and your service can remain as normal.

Poor internet connection

In the case of a poor internet connection, you can comfortably switch to our mobile app and use cellular 3G and 4G data you’ll never be without your business phone line!

Final thoughts

Weighing both systems against each other, it's clear to see that digital phone lines (VoIP) have many additional benefits making it the superior choice for UK business owners.

Considerations VoIP Landline
Setup cost Low High
Running cost Low High
Min connection
Multimedia Transmit voice, video, and any form of multimedia just like you do on the Internet or mobile Only voice
Scalability Easy and inexpensive to scale as your business grows, can usually be done online and activated the same day! Additional phone sets and wired phone lines installed by professional engineers...time and money!
Add-ons Large number features available at no additional cost (call conferencing, forwarding, call recording, etc.) Limited options for add-ons, most of which cost extra
Outages Calls can be re-routed as needed at the network level to avoid downtime from outages, and power outages calls can automatically be redirected to mobile devices removing downtime all together If there is a fault on the copper line, needing a costly and timely engineer to fix.
Call pricing Free inbound calls and usually include unlimited calling plans, with mobile and international calling rates a fraction of the PSTN network! Nothing is free with PSTN calls unless you’re paying for a calling package which is usually overpriced and packed with margins!

Ready to get started? Check out our packages or call our team on 0203 697 4166.

Topics: Latest, VoIP

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A blog by bOnline for news, tip and insights for  UK 'micro-business' owners.

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