Sky and TalkTalk are as keen to become your phone provider as they are to sell you broadband or TV. If you’re thinking about sacking BT but don’t want to get cable, they’re probably strong contenders.
Picking the best is a tricky balancing act that depends on how you use your phone, and don’t forget that these rates also apply if you’re getting a bundle with broadband or TV. If you’re not a major landline user, then you’ll want to minimise the landline cost, but if you’ve got a touch of verbal incontinence it’s important to get loads of minutes for free.
TalkTalk looks like the best value if you can afford to pay up front – that annual line rental is the equivalent of just £9.50/month compared to Sky’s advance rate of £9.95/month. If your monthly bill matters more, Sky has the edge.
If you don’t have an active BT phone line, Sky charges £39 to connect you, and TalkTalk charges £50 – with a minimum 12 month contract.
Evening and Weekend calls
Sky’s basic Talk Freetime costs nothing whether you subscribe to Sky TV or just have Sky line rental. TalkTalk’s standard service is £3.61/month on top of line rental.
In both cases, you get free calls of up to an hour at evenings (7pm to 7am) and weekends to most UK landline numbers.
Inveterate natterers will want unlimited calls to UK landlines at any time of the day, and TalkTalk’s £4.71/month is just slightly better than Sky’s £5/month on top of line rental.
Both Sky and TalkTalk’s definition of UK landlines includes anything starting in 01, 02, 03 or 0870, excludes the Channel Islands, indirect access to other phone services, and dial-up internet. TalkTalk’s inclusive calls also include 0845 numbers and other TalkTalk phone subscribers.
All inclusive calls must terminate after 60 minutes to avoid being charged, but that doesn’t stop you dialling the same number straight away.
In the package
Sky’s Talk packages include free calls to Sky customer services, which came first for landline support in the 2011 Customer Service Satisfaction Survey by the official media regulator, Ofcom. Of those surveyed, 66 per cent were satisfied with Sky’s customer service and 17 per cent were dissatisfied.
The Sky Talk Unlimited tariff also gives unlimited international calls to Sky’s Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA. It also includes calls to mobiles in Canada and USA. Calls to mobiles are 20 per cent cheaper than with Talk Freetime.
Sky line rental includes voicemail, caller display, 141 number-withholding if you want to keep your number a secret, and automatic number withholding on request if you never want others to see it.
An additional £2.50/month unlocks call diversion to another landline or mobile, call waiting, reminder calls, ring back, three-way group calling and Voicemail Plus. With this, you can record a personal greeting, store 30 messages and access your message from any phone.
It’s also possible to have anonymous calls automatically rejected for £4/month, and you can send text messages from your landline for 10p each.
TalkTalk’s phone tariffs include voicemail, caller ID and number withholding, and you can customise them with a wide range of Boosters.
For mobiles, you can have 500 minutes to UK mobiles for £5/month. Anonymous caller reject costs £3.88/month and last caller barring is £3.25/month.
If you need to make international calls, you can get 500 monthly minutes to 100 international destinations for £5/month each. The Global Saver option, at £1.01 per month, offers discounted rates on calls to many overseas destinations, or for £4.03/month you can get unlimited anytime calls to 36 destinations.
For in-call features, TalkTalk offers anonymous caller reject for £3.88/month and last caller barring at £3.25/month. You can further fine-tune your package with more features for £2.55 each, or £4.09 for two: call diversion, ring back, three-way calling, call waiting and reminder call.
If you pick the right tariff, it’s unlikely you’ll go outside your inclusive allowance, but what will you pay if you do?
On Sky Talk, UK landlines cost 7.6p/minute with a connection fee of 12.5p. Mobile calls on Talk Freetime cost 12.77p/min daytime and 7.66p/mi evenings, and are 20 per cent cheaper on Talk Unlimited. Numbers starting in 08, including 0845, cost a maximum of 10.2p/min with 12.5p connection.
With TalkTalk, all chargeable calls are subject to a 13.1p connection fee. UK landlines, 0845 and 0870 numbers are charged at 7.95p/min outside your inclusive minutes. UK mobiles are charged at 12.26p/min any time.
It’s included with Sky’s line rental, so Sky Talk Freetime works out as the slightly more affordable option for people who only use their phone at evenings and weekends, and don’t need to make mobile calls.
If you’re a major talker, though, it flips over and TalkTalk is not only cheaper but more flexible. Sky Talk Unlimited has inclusive international calls, but the wide choice of TalkTalk boosters for mobile and international give it the edge to tailor TalkTalk’s package to suit your needs.