A Guide to VoIP vs Landline Phones

If your business needs a new phone system, you have an important choice to make: should you invest in a VoIP phone system or a landline phone system?

While landline phones are the traditional choice, many businesses have made the switch to VoIP because of its affordability and versatility. The best business VoIP providers in the UK offer plans starting at only £7 per month with features like call forwarding, voicemail transcription, and more.

In this guide, we’ll compare VoIP vs landline phones to help you decide which is right for your business.

VoIP vs Landline: What Are the Main Differences?

There are a few major differences between VoIP and landline phones that you need to know from the get-go.

Let’s take a look at VoIP and see how it surpasses landline phone systems:

  • Easier installation: VoIP phone systems are faster and cheaper to install
  • Lower operating costs: VoIP systems have lower calling rates, both for domestic and international calls
  • Use any device: VoIP systems let you place calls from any internet-connected devices, while landline systems require dedicated phones
  • Security: Calls made over VoIP are encrypted, while landline calls lack this security feature
  • Use international numbers: You can assign international phone numbers to your VoIP phone system, while landlines must have a local number

However, landline phone systems also have some key advantages:

  • Enhanced sound quality: Landline calls have better audio quality compared to VoIP calls
  • Reliability: Landline systems continue to function when the power goes out, while VoIP systems will suffer outages
  • Emergency calling: Landlines provide location information when calling emergency services

How Does a VoIP Phone Work?

A VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system enables you to make and receive phone calls over the internet. A speaker’s voice is converted into data packets, transmitted across the internet, and then converted back into audio at the other end of the call.

Notably, there’s no special equipment required for this process. You can use any internet-connected device with a microphone and speaker, including smartphones and computers.

Check out our guide to VoIP phone systems for more details about how VoIP phones work.

How Does a Landline Phone Work?

Landline phones use copper wires to transmit audio from one phone to another. A speaker’s voice is converted into electrical signals that travel along these wires to a centralised telephone exchange, which routes the call to the right recipient. When the signals reach that recipient, they’re converted back to audio.

Landline phone systems have been in use in the UK since the 1800s, long predating the internet. To use a landline system, you must have landline-compatible phones and your office must be physically connected to the network of copper phone wires that runs throughout the UK.

VoIP vs Landline: A Detailed Comparison

Let’s dive into a detailed comparison of VoIP vs landline pros and cons so you can decide which is better for your business.

Equipment

One of the most important differences between VoIP and landline phone systems is the type of equipment required.

You can use a VoIP phone system with any internet-connected device. Employees can use their smartphones and computers to place and receive calls. So, you don’t need to pay for dedicated phone hardware when setting up a VoIP phone system.

In addition, these devices can connect to the internet via WiFi or mobile networks, so employees aren’t tethered to a desk. This is important since it means employees can continue to use your phone system when they’re working remotely or travelling for business.

Landline phone systems require dedicated desktop phones that are physically connected to the landline network. So, you have to purchase phones to use with your landline system and employees can’t take their phones with them when they leave their desks.

Winner: VoIP

Affordability

VoIP phone systems are much cheaper to set up and operate than landline phone systems.

There are almost no installation costs for a VoIP phone system. You may need to upgrade your internet connection to handle the additional bandwidth, but that’s it.

Landline phone systems, on the other hand, may require you to rewire your office to connect to the landline network. You’ll also need to set up a private branch exchange system to transfer calls among phones within your office. In addition, you have to purchase a dedicated desk phone for each of your employees.

Calling costs for VoIP phone service are also lower than those for landline phone service. Many UK VoIP providers offer subscription plans that include unlimited domestic minutes and inexpensive rates for international calls. Landline phone providers typically charge moderate per-minute rates for domestic calls and high rates for international calls.

Winner: VoIP

Available Phone Numbers

When using a landline phone system, you’re limited to a local phone number for your area. For example, if your business is in Manchester, you’ll receive a phone number with an 0161 dialling code. This is because every landline phone connection is associated with a specific address.

However, when using a non-fixed VoIP phone system, you can choose a phone number from anywhere in the world. Non-fixed VoIP phone lines aren’t tied to an address.

This means that if your business is in Manchester, you can choose a number with an 0161 dialling code or another dialling code. For example, you could have an 020 dialling code (for London) or even an international phone number.

You can use phone numbers with different dialling codes to give your business a local presence in markets around the globe. As an example, you can purchase a US phone number to make and receive calls to and from US customers. You won’t pay international rates for calls from this number to US phones, so having an international number can also reduce the cost of operating your phone system.

Winner: VoIP

Scalability

VoIP systems are easier to scale than landline phone systems as your business grows.

With a VoIP phone system, it’s not necessary to purchase new phones for each employee. You can create an unlimited amount of virtual extensions and give each employee their own phone number. If you want to add more lines to your phone system, all you have to do is call your provider.

With a landline phone system, you have to purchase a new desk phone for every employee you add. You can create new extensions, but only up to the maximum number of extensions enabled by your private branch exchange system. If you want to add more lines to your phone system, you’ll have to add physical wires from your office to the landline network—a potentially expensive upgrade.

Winner: VoIP

Features

VoIP phone systems are packed with features that can increase productivity. Some of the most helpful features offered by VoIP phone providers include:

  • Call recording
  • Call transcription
  • Voicemail-to-email transcription
  • Call forwarding
  • Ring groups
  • Auto-attendants

VoIP phone systems also offer integrations with other software platforms your business relies on. For example, you can integrate your VoIP phone system with your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to track calls to customers or auto-dial leads.

Many VoIP phone systems include analytics to help you monitor the amount of time employees are spending on the phone. This data can be useful for tracking productivity or improving your customer service.

Landline phone systems offer limited features. Some phones support call recording and call forwarding, but not more advanced features.

Winner: VoIP

Texting

Most VoIP phone systems support text messaging at no additional cost. You can send and receive messages on a smartphone or computer.

Landline phone systems don’t support text messaging by default. You’ll need to set up a third-party text-to-landline service that sends incoming messages to your computer or smartphone. These services typically require a paid subscription that’s not included with your landline phone service.

Winner: VoIP

Sound Quality

Landline phones have slightly better sound quality than VoIP phones. This is because the electrical signals used to carry calls over a landline network hold more audio information than the data packets used to carry VoIP calls over the internet. VoIP call quality can also decline significantly if your internet connection is poor.

Winner: Landline

Reliability

Landline phones continue to work even if your power is out or your internet network goes down. VoIP phones, on the other hand, require a continuous power supply and internet connection.

Winner: Landline

Security

VoIP phone calls can be encrypted, making it impossible for anyone to listen in on important conversations. While landline phones are relatively secure as well, there’s a chance that someone could tap into your business’ phone lines and listen to your calls.

Winner: VoIP

The Big Switch Off

Importantly, the UK is phasing out its landline network by the end of 2025 in a process known as ‘The Big Switch Off’. After this date, landline phone systems will no longer function in the UK. Landlines will stop operating in many parts of the country even earlier as engineers prepare to take the old network out of service.

This is a big deal for any business considering whether to adopt a VoIP or landline phone system. You’ll be forced to switch to VoIP by the end of 2025, so it makes the most sense to invest in a VoIP system now rather than have to rebuild your phone system in the near future.

If you already have a landline phone system, transitioning to VoIP sooner rather than later will ensure you have plenty of time to prepare your workforce for the change.

Next Steps

VoIP phone systems have several important advantages over landline systems. They’re more affordable, don’t require specialised equipment, and come with features like voicemail transcription and call analytics. In addition, you can use any phone number, including international numbers, with non-fixed VoIP phones.

Perhaps the most important reason to choose a VoIP phone system is that the UK is phasing out its landline network at the end of 2025. So, all businesses will need to switch to VoIP by that time.

Check out our guide to the best phone systems for UK small businesses to make the switch to VoIP today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I switch from landline to VoIP?
If your business is currently using a landline phone system, it’s worth considering switching to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). VoIP phone systems are cheaper to operate and easier to scale up as your business grows. Landlines will also stop working in the UK at the end of 2025, so you must switch to VoIP by this time.
Can I use my landline phone with VoIP?
Yes, you can continue to use your landline phones if you switch to VoIP. You’ll need to purchase a VoIP adapter for each landline phone to connect it to your new internet-based phone service.
Is VoIP as reliable as landline?
VoIP phone systems aren’t quite as reliable as landline phone systems. If the power goes out or your internet connection is down, your VoIP phone service will stop working. However, VoIP phone systems are very reliable outside of these conditions.
Written by:
Michael is a prolific business and B2B tech writer whose articles have been published on many well-known sites, including TechRadar Pro, Business Insider and Tom's Guide. Over the past six years, he has kept readers up-to-date with the latest business technology, corporate finance matters and emerging business trends. A successful small business owner and entrepreneur, Michael has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech, finance and business.
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James thinks all businesses can improve if they use the right technology. At Expert Market, he utilises his 4+ years experience as a researcher to offer specialised advice on a wide range of categories from CRM to Fleet Management.