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Cheap Phone Calls from alternative providers, plus a buyer's guide to Telephone Services in the UK

Skype
- Download Skype and get free calls to other people on Skype, free video calls, instant messaging and more.

Cheap Phone Calls and Alternative Telephone Services - A Buyer's Guide

In addition to BT, there are now many other telephony providers including NTL, Telewest and Bulldog. You now no longer have to have a BT line in order to make phone calls, although with many services you can (or must) retain a BT line and pay line rental to BT, but make your phone calls through an alternative provider of your choice (known as CPS - see below). There follows a quick guide to some of the more common questions you may have regarding alternative telephone service providers.

Can I keep my existing phone number?

Yes. Provided you are not changing your address, telephone service providers must let you keep your existing number. They may also let you keep your existing number if you are moving house but within the same area code, although this is not guaranteed. There may be a charge for making your phone number portable.

What is CPS?

CPS stands for carrier pre-selection, which is a service that allows BT customers to make calls through a different telephone company using the existing BT equipment and line rental. This is done by either installing a router between the phone and the phone socket that diverts the call to a different provider, or buy dialling a code or freephone number before making your call. BT is obligated to allow their customers to take advantage of CPS.

You do not have to make all your calls through your chosen CPS service. You can still dial a number as normal through your BT service and be charged accordingly. CPS services are often used for international calls where they are often considerably cheaper than BT.

How should I choose an alternative line provider to BT?

You will need to compare the cost of a new service to what you are currently paying with BT. Things that affect how much you pay include: how many and what type of calls you make, (eg landline, mobile, international), how long your calls last and at what time you make them.

Ensure that you check the prices of all the different types of calls to be sure that you will be saving money. Find out:

  • If there are any discounts available.
  • If there are any connection charges or minimum call charges. A connection charge of 5p can bump up the cost of your phone bill if you usually only make calls of short duration.
  • What unit of time is used for calculating call length, eg the nearest second or nearest minute?
  • How much it costs to call international destinations or mobile phones.
  • If there are different pricing structures depending on the time of the day or day of the week the call is made.
  • How much the line rental will cost.

Ensure that you check any contract that you are about to sign carefully and specifically check:

  • Is there a minimum period before I can cancel the contract?
  • How do I cancel the contract?
  • Do any penalties apply if I cancel the contract early?
Toucan
- Cheap and free phone calls for people with BT lines. Services include "Talk 2-For-All" which gives you free weekend UK landline calls and 2p / min at other times, and unlimited any time UK landline calls for £9.99 / month. Also unlimited broadband from £13.99 in some areas. See site for full details.
Alpha Telecom
- Discount international calls on your existing line. No monthly or connection charges.
TalkTalk
- UK landline phone calls are free for 3 months, then they are guaranteed to be cheaper than BT.