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BE and Zen announce landline products to compete with BT
Thursday 05 August 2010 17:09:07 by John Hunt

Two new operators are entering the phoneline market today with both BE and Zen announcing their landline products to compete with BT. This will allow consumers and businesses to buy a phone line direct from their favoured broadband provider rather than having to manage separate contracts with another company. The best news of course is that the products are cheaper than getting your landline from BT, although consumers should take in to account options like special offers or paying for a year up-front which could work out cheaper.

Both BE and Zen are focusing on selling their landline products to broadband customers with BE linking the contract length to be the same as for their broadband services. Helpfully, it won't automatically be renewed without the customers agreement. Zen opted for a slightly different approach with a one month minimum contract so customers can move away easily if they want to.

As always, pricing isn't the easiest to compare as different providers chose different things to include with their service, but a rough price guide for the home consumer options can be seen below.

Product Included Cost / month
BE Landline Line rental only £9.50
BE Evening & Weekends Evening & weekend calls included £10.50
BE Anytime Free to UK numbers & 600 international minutes £13.50
BT line rental Line rental only £11.54 / £14.29*
BT Weekend Weekend calls included £11.54 / £14.29*
BT Anytime Anytime calls included £16.53 / £19.28*
Zen Home Talk Line rental only £10.99
Zen Home Talk Plus Includes 1000 anytime minutes £16.99

* Cost dependent on payment and billing options chosen

Zen also differentiate themselves by not having a minimum call set-up fee (BT charge 9.9p per call) and calls are generally cheaper per minute than BT.

"We've responded to our members' requests to provide landline and have delivered it in a way that focuses on giving consumer's control – no excessively long contracts, no automatic contract renewals, and no unnecessary bundling of features that increase the cost to the customer. We want people to be able to get on with living their online lives with minimal disruption, and the launch of the new landline service will help us to achieve this."

Tom Williams, (MD) BE Broadband

BE have been expected to launch landline products following their parent company O2 having launched their home phone landline products in May.

"Zen's Home Talk and Business Talk services aim to provide calls packages that would see our customers save considerable amounts on their phone bill quickly and easily. They also provide our customers with the confidence that these services come with the same high level of service and support as Zen's award winning Broadband. Introducing these new services clearly demonstrates our commitment to provide the best ISP service in the UK."

Andrew Saunders, (Head of Product Management and Marketing), Zen Internet

Click for more information on Zen's Home Talk and BE's Landline products.


Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Its a bit of a strange time to get into the fixed line telephony market as its been on the decline for years. Good luck to them though lower prices more competition.
Posted by jrawle over 7 years ago
@GMAN99: given that, at the moment, you need a fixed line in order to use either BE's or Zen's internet service, it's not strange at all, particularly as they are offering line rental only which lets people avoid paying for calls they don't want.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Sure obviously you need a line for broadband :) I'm just saying the telephony side is on the decline its not the money spinner it was. Line rental only is a good option yes, although for you price difference you might as well throw in the evening calls
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
I do wish companies wouldn't call their punters "members". It's almost as bad as using unlimited to mean limited.

Would have been nice to know whether these are physically unbundled services a la TalkTalk and maybe a few others (Pipex? Sky??) or just resold BT a la Plusnet and almost everyone else.

Another nice-to-know would have been whether these services support the indirect calls providers (1899 etc still offer UK calls at 60 minutes for 5p or so).

Prices for answer service etc are also missing.

Once questions like those are answered, folk can do a proper comparison.
Posted by ian72 over 7 years ago
Would love to know what the price is for caller display. Essential function for me and as it is essentially free on BT could make the alternatives very expensive.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
£2 for Caller display
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@c_j_:This is WLR (Wholesale Line Rental) so the line is not unbundled. They are still working on pricing at the moment.
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
Ta for clarification re WLR.

Be's £2/month for caller display might suit someone whose ultimate ambition is "naked DSL" without the voice service, but for folks who actually use the voice line, it's effectively free on BT courtesy of BT Privacy at Home (as ian72 already noted).

C'mon Zen/Be, we know you can do better.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
BE's new line connection charge is cheaper tho £85, I wonder what the actual Openreach charge is
Posted by ajays over 7 years ago
@ian72 Zen's caller display costs 88p
Posted by ajays over 7 years ago
When comparing Zen to BT or anyone other provider it's worth noting that we (Zen) do not charge a call set up fee, calls are charged per second and NOT rounded off the nearest minute. Plus, Zen Business Talk and Zen Home Talk both come with just a one month contract just like our broadband services, not many other providers other such a short flexible contract.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
The Openreach connection charge is £88+VAT for the "no dial tone" scenario. Most retailers do special offers from time to time, usually not when you need it !

I don't like the escalation in call setup charges, you can end up with a 12p minimum call cost if outside the inclusive minutes or calling a mobile. Kudos to Zen on that.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Cheers herwick, its just that you see a lot of people complain at the £125 BT connection charge, it looks like most of it comes from Openreach in the first place.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
So what are the prices including caller display and inclusive 24x7 UK calls?
Posted by ajays over 7 years ago
@Somerset The price for Zen Home Talk Plus (includes 1000 anytime minutes to UK 01,02,03 numbers) + caller display = £17.87 /month inc VAT
Posted by doowles over 7 years ago
Great news, I've never made a call from my landline in my life. Only reason is so I can get broadband. Well done BE, will be nice to get just one bill and a bit cheaper as well.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
9.9p to setup a call on a line rental product is just blatant profiteering.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
I suspect that BT's core strategy, when faced with competition, is not to introduce cheaper charges and incentives to stay, but instead to promote inclusive calls packages by the stick approach of making calls outside of those packages very expensive, and locking people into auto-renewing contracts. Whether that will work or whether people will simply switch to cheaper mobiles (or as here: Zen, BE) remains to be seen.
Posted by Oddball over 7 years ago
Line rental is a ripoff regardless. The infrastructure (Copper wire, exchange and backhaul) is already in place and takes very little to maintain (Unless it goes wrong of course). BE should be bundling line rental in with their broadband service for no more than £2 per month. Charging so much line rental for a miniscule amount of electricity pumped down existing copper wire is a con!
Posted by Oddball over 7 years ago
Oh and charging for Caller ID is also a con as it's only a matter of flipping a switch on or off. It costs the telco zip.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
How do you know it takes very little to maintain? I'm not saying the line rental prices should be as high as they are but.... what are you basing the "takes very little to maintain" bit on? Agreed on caller id... no cost there at all.
Posted by EnglishRob over 7 years ago
Oddball, I think you're forgetting that Zen and BE pay BT Openreach for the lines, I'm sure if they ran their own independent lines (like Virgin do for cable customers) they would be able to charge a couple of quid a month for phone line rental rather than nearly £10 a month. I wouldn't be surprised if they're being charged about £7.50 or so a month by BT Openreach.
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
"I wouldn't be surprised if they're being charged about £7.50 or so a month by BT Openreach."

BT's prices are (allegedly) regulated and (if you know where to look) published, so someone in the know should be able to say exactly what the Wholesale Line Rental rate is (and what it includes).

From memory, the amount Openreach get for provision of copper between exchange and customer is something like a couple of quid a month for DSL and something not greatly different for the voice side. Correction welcome.
Posted by ajays over 7 years ago
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
Ta. So EnglishRob's £7.50 for wholesale line rental wasn't far wrong.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
ER - How do you calculate £2/month if they installed their own lines?
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
So that all looks good to me I mean... every business has a mark up... £9.50 sounds reasonable

£2 and your losing money... obviously
Posted by jrawle over 7 years ago
Unfortunately, I need caller display to filter out cold calls from Virgin Media and overseas call centres. It's a pity BE don't offer a discount package for people taking both broadband and calls. It looks like I'll be staying with BT on grounds of price, much as I find their customer services terrible.
Posted by jrawle over 7 years ago
Incidentally, BT customers can use or similar to make calls for 5p/call at any time. There's no need to pay for daytime inclusive calls unless you make more than 100 per month (and certainly no need to pay their rip-off call rate). BT have to allow access to such services by law, but other operators do not, so on BE and Zen there's no guarantee you can route calls through other providers using prefixes.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Must say I am very tempted to go with Be landline when I first read about it. The problem is that at the moment my landline is with Talk Talk and my wife gets free phone calls to Malta. So far I have not seen any comparisons between TT and Be. Until I do I won't be switching.
Posted by Oddball over 7 years ago
My current BT bill on yearly contract is £12.79 (Due to go up by 50p in October) - £1.25 paperless discount with free Caller ID/Display included + £1.10 for the last quarters calls (I don't phone out much) + VAT = £12.64 for the last month.

Now if I was to get Be with free evening and weekend calls that would be £10.50 + £2 for Caller ID/Display = £12.50 + just for the sake of argument that £1.10 of calls I made (I know it won't be the same but it's a rough guide) = £13.60

Not such a good deal for me there!
Posted by Oddball over 7 years ago
Addendum: I mean last months calls not last quarters.
Posted by mrrsa01 over 7 years ago
Wonder which company will do the line faults on the network,underground and overhead,bet the vans haave a BT logo.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
mrrsa01 - as BT own the lines...
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
@Oddball - I'd pay a lot larger difference than you outline in order not to have BT but to have someone faintly competent, who can get billing right, who doesn't act like a complete shark, whose operators don't hang up on you or talk gibberish if the answer you seek isn't on the script card in front of them, took ownership of issues, actually responded to your queries instead of putting them in the bin, and so on.
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