Essential guide to business telephone and mobile numbers UK

Did you know there are nine types of business phone number to choose from? Find out which one is right for you.

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Sorting a business telephone system might feel like an unnecessary expense in the current poor economy, with many firms debating closing down their helpdesks to save on costs. But in truth, they could be shooting themselves in the foot.

Today’s consumers still want personalised interactions with real-life employees. They are impatient, and want to find a solution quickly. Whether you’re a high street store, or an online dropshipper, a business number provides a direct line of communication between customer and company; guaranteed to ensure a positive user experience.

Having a memorable and cheap telephone number to contact is an easy way to win over customers. Depending on the type you choose, you might also gain a national and international presence, helping you to appear well-established.

Compare Business Phone Costs with ease

Most modern business telephone providers provide non-geographic numbers. However, their rates differ so you’ll need to research carefully to find the best option for your budget. Our simple cost comparison tool is an easy way to get direct quotes without having to spend a penny.

We’ve been advising UK small businesses for over two decades. To find the right phone number for your company, and learn how to get it set up, read our below guide to the different telephone rates, business number types, and their associated pros and cons.

What is a business phone number?

A business phone number is a dedicated phone line purely for your organisation. It should be placed on all company materials including business listings, website, and email footers, to ensure customers have a dedicated number they can use to contact you, and that employees can contact leads via a professional, secure channel.

One of the biggest bonuses of a business phone number is that it allows for 24/7 communication with customers, bolstering your brand’s reputation and credibility. Other benefits of a business telephone number include:

  1. Helps with scale-up: you can start out with a local number, or choose a UK-wide number to have an instant national presence
  2. Protects work-life balance: avoid giving out your personal number and take control of when customers can contact you
  3. Work from anywhere: thanks to call routing, employees can work anywhere they choose as calls can be directed to the telephone of your choosing
  4. Improves customer satisfaction: according to Salesforce, 88% of customers now say a company’s customer experience is as important as its product or services

There are different ways of getting a business phone number. You can get one through a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) provider, your business broadband package, or even an alternative communication method like web conferencing tools and messaging apps. We’ll explain more about what these are and how they work, below.

How to get a business phone number in the UK

The simplest way to get a business phone number is through a VoIP telephone system. Whereas traditional telephones use an analogue connection, VoIP services are hosted over the internet and are downloaded as software onto your business computers.

Most VoIP plans are paid for via a monthly subscription. Each starter plan includes a virtual phone number that you can tailor to the charges you think you, or your customers, should pay. Simply sign up to the software, and select from the most popular business number types including 01/02, 0800, 0845, 0844, 070 and 0333 numbers.

Top 7 Best VoIP Providers at a glance

  1. 8×8 – Best for small businesses with ambitious growth plans
  2. Vonage – Best for small businesses that need a cheap, easy-to-use phone system
  3. bOnline – Best for small businesses wanting tailored service plans for specific telephone needs
  4. Dialpad – Best for businesses with telesales teams and high turnover
  5. GoTo – Best for companies with multiple branches and teams needing to communicate remotely with each other
  6. RingCentral – Best for small businesses with multiple departments, such as integrated agencies
  7. Nuacom Unlimited – Best for small businesses based online that need a port of call for customer enquiries

Don’t overspend – you can click any of the links above to begin comparing fees on VoIP providers for your own business’s size and needs.

You might also be able to get a VoIP system through your current broadband provider, as many of the big name suppliers, like BT and OpenReach, now use VoIP to host their services.

It’s a good idea to click through and research the VoIP brands listed above, so you can get a clearer idea of the features available with each. For example, video calls have become a necessity for many small businesses. If this is something you use regularly, we recommend a plan which offers video conferencing, like 8×8 Express.

Should I use a business landline?

Ten years ago, a business landline would have been one of the most common ways to get a business phone number. However, it is not a good idea for today’s SMEs.

The Big Switch Off is taking place in January 2027. On this date, all phone lines in the UK will become digital. Experts are advising firms to switch to a VoIP system ahead of this date. Getting one now means you won’t have to upgrade your system before traditional landlines become obsolete.

VoIP users also save money, as they’ll avoid the need for additional handsets or an expensive phone system like a landline require. As everything is hosted via the internet, all your employees will need is a pair of headphones and a good WiFi connection.

How to get a business mobile phone number

Smartphone technology has grown so advanced that an entrepreneur or small business team can theoretically run 100% of their business just through apps. As a result, most companies now invest in business mobile contracts so that employees – particularly those based remotely – can stay connected while away from the office.

But that doesn’t mean you should forego a telephone system just yet. As we’ve explained, business telephones provide a degree of professionalism and trust that mobile numbers are less likely to convey to customers. Instead, it’s a good idea to have a shared telephone number and route it to the entire teams’ business mobiles.

This means that businesses can have a fixed landline number to use on branding materials, while ensuring that employees don’t need to use their personal mobiles to conduct business activities. Finding a VoIP brand that permits call routing (examples include Dialpad and Vonage) means you can do this for a small monthly fee.

A personal business number with the prefix 070, is another way to do this. You can set it up so that, when a customer calls the 070 number, it will automatically route to a phone anywhere in the world. We explain more about how these work in the section below: types of business phone number.

How to get a FREE business phone number

Today, the cost of running a business is high. Inflation has sent pretty much every business overhead soaring. In such a difficult trading climate, finding a free phone number for your business phone system sounds like an attractive proposition for small business owners.

At the moment, there are only a handful of providers available on the market that offer a business phone number for zero charge. CallHippo and Number People are two of the best-known.

CallHippo’s Basic plan includes one, free standard number. This plan permits an unlimited number of users, click-to-dial, voicemail, call forwarding, and SMS and text messages. However, you will need to upgrade to the more expensive Bronze plan (£14 per month) for advanced features like call recording.

Is it really free?

Small business owners should be wary of signing a contract with the first free business phone number they can find. Many ‘free’ providers make up for their low cost by charging extra rates, such as for forwarding your calls to either a mobile or a landline. This can make a supposedly affordable plan more expensive in the long run.

We’d recommend researching the best deal for paid-for business phone system plans by comparing prices from the top providers.

This is a great way to strengthen cash flow and keep your phone costs to a minimum without sacrificing excellent features like call forwarding or email integration. Vonage is one of the most affordable options, with prices starting from just £9 per user, per month.

If you want a free telephone number so you can test out the system, you can also look for a provider that has a free trial, such as Dialpad (£0 for the first 14 days).

Do I need a business phone number?

If you’d rather not use a phone line to keep in contact with customers, there are several alternative methods of communication. Depending on your specific target audience, some might be more suitable than others.

For example, a company website might be a better option for those who are selling online, and need to be available to talk to customers across the globe 24/7.

Moreover, companies can also interact with clients or colleagues without a business phone number through web conferencing tools (Google, Zoom) or team collaboration apps like Slack and WhatsApp.

George Lineker is founder of YourBusinessNumber. The company allows firms to purchase additional business telephone numbers by subscription. This additional number then sits on an existing personal smartphone in the WhatsApp Business app, preventing the need to have a second handset solely for work related communications.

Lineker explains that messages sent via WhatsApp tend to get better engagement rates: “You know the customer would have seen the message on WhatsApp Business, as people are generally on their phones all day.”

Types of business phone number

Below, we’ve come up with a simple breakdown of the top five types of business phone number for SMEs. We’ll explain the prefix used, what makes each number unique, as well as the drawbacks and advantages for businesses.

The five most popular business phone number options are:

  1. Freephone business numbers (0800 and 0808)
  2. Local rate numbers (0845)
  3. Service rate numbers (0843 and 0844)
  4. National rate numbers (0870 and 0871)
  5. UK-wide numbers (03 and 0345)
Number typePrefixDescriptionBenefitsDrawbacks
Freephone numbers0800 and 0808Freephone numbers are completely free to call from a landline or mobileEncourages customers to get in touch because they won’t be charged The business must foot the bill for all received phone calls (around 1.5p per min, per call)
Local rate numbers0845The caller always pays their set local charge (around 7p per min) Customers won’t have to pay over and above what they’re used toThe business will need to pay the difference
Service rate numbers0843 and 0844The caller pays their set local charge (around 7p per min) no matter where they are basedThe business receives a share of the customer call charge (around 1p to 4p per min)The business will need to pay the difference, so you could end up making a loss
National rate numbers0870 and 0871The caller pays a national, not local, rateSome of the customer call charge is rebated to the company, generating revenueCustomers can pay up to 13p a minute (plus an access charge), which could annoy customers
UK-wide numbers03 and 0345Company can be based anywhere, but the customer still pays the local rateThe company can advertise a single phone number, regardless of relocation or expansionMobile calls can cost between 3p and 55p per minute, which could annoy customers

Specialist business phone numbers

Above, we’ve outlined the five most popular business phone options. Now, we’ll take you through three specialist types of business phone number that require a bit more explanation about how they work, and when they should be used:

1. Premium rate numbers (09)

These are generally used for technical support, chatlines, phone-ins and competitions. Calls are charged at a high rate to callers: costing up to £3.60 per minute, plus an additional 5p to 6p per phone call.

The caller pays for the entire phone charge, and the revenue generated from it is split between the telephone operator and your business. If, for example, you set up a phone line charging £1 a minute, you could expect to earn as much as 56p per minute on each call.

Using a premium rate number comes with the risk of alienating your customer and making them less likely to contact you. If excellent customer care is important to you, this isn’t the number for your business.

🚨 Premium rate numbers also have strict user guidelines set out by PhonepayPlus, so make sure you enquire about these when considering your options.

2. Personal numbering (070)

Also known as follow me numbers, these virtual numbers can be routed (specified by you) across the world, with calls being automatically forwarded to the line that’s most likely to be active. Choose which phone lines each call is forwarded to by setting up a series of priorities determining when staff are most likely to be at which phone.

For example, you might have calls forwarded to your office phone between 9am and 12pm, your mobile phone between 12pm and 2pm, your home phone between 5pm and 9pm, et cetera. You can change these forwarding instructions instantly at any time by dialing your 070 number and entering a pin code.

Calls made to 070 numbers usually cost slightly more than calls made to landline or mobile phone numbers. You should contact your provider to ask what they charge for a personal number.

Another option to make sure you can always speak to your customers, wherever you’re based, is to use a virtual landline. Read more about them in our full guide.

3. Vanity or customer phone number

These use recognizable patterns of numbers or letters, ideally to help customers easily remember them. They can be freephone, local rate or national rate numbers.

The idea behind a vanity number is that the novelty value and high memorability of it is likely to draw more customers and clients to use it. Generally, the more memorable they are, the more expensive they are to purchase.

The phone number itself depends on the number buttons on a phone keypad which show each letter of the word. So, freephone flowers would be would be 0800 356 9377 (freephone = 0800 and then f=3, l=5, 0=6, w=9, e=3, r=7, s=7).

Be wary that in today’s modern world, most customers use smartphones. Not all handsets have numbers or letters printed on the keys – so always make sure you provide the full number as well as the word.

Are your staff working remotely? Do you need a phone number/system which allows you to be location-flexible?

Cloud-based and virtual communication solutions are key to maintaining business continuity, especially as hybrid working becomes the new norm.

Take two minutes to tell us what your business needs and we’ll match you with the top UK telephone system providers most suited to your requirements.

How do I switch business phone numbers?

If you have to move offices, the idea of potentially losing your business phone number is nerve-wracking, and not something you want to be worrying about on top of switching locations.

Especially if you use a non-digital contact method, like a traditional landline, the process of switching business phone numbers can be complicated. There are four ways to approach it:

1. Call redirection

This option is best for landline users, whose options are limited if you want to keep your business phone number. Most telephone operators allow you to redirect calls to your new number for an additional charge, so that customers can reach you without fuss. BT permits business users to use this feature for a cost of £6.36 per month.

2. Number porting

Porting your number is the easiest way to keep hold of it while you’re switching carriers. By doing this, you get to keep your existing number for zero charge (although you might have to pay an exit fee if leaving the contract early).

Number porting takes time to complete: start early so you’re not left without a working phone number. To port your number, request a PAC or Porting Authorisation Code from your current provider, and share this with the new provider. Once they get the code, the process may take a few days to complete.

3. Call greeting

If neither of the above tactics work for you, another potential solution is to leave a recorded message on your old number, provided your operator allows that. Through this message, you can inform the caller that you have moved and give them the new number to contact.

4. Use VoIP

If you are debating getting your first business phone number, starting out with a VoIP system is a good option to prevent having to change it futher down the line. Every VoIP plan provides a virtual number which is not tied to any particular device. As such, you can port your business number quickly if you decide to change it.

VoIP is also much less expensive than call direction (bOnline’s monthly plan is £6, which is 60p less than BT’s call redirection feature) and much less hassle for customers than listening to a call greeting and redialling.

Compare business phone quotes

Above, we’ve explained the nine types of business number available for SMEs. We’ve also outlined the three most popular ways of securing a business phone number (broadband, VoIP, and mobile).

Our top recommended route is VoIP. It promises significant savings for firms, and means the company can easily switch numbers; whether you decide to save your customers money with a freephone number, or make a profit with a premium option.

If you’re not sure which VoIP provider to choose, we can help. We offer a quote comparison service that pairs you up with trusted product and service providers. All you need to do is complete our quick, free, and easy form.

Compare Telephone System Prices Do you already have a telephone system? We'll find you the best telephone system for zero cost.
Business phone number FAQs
  • Can I keep my existing business phone number when switching to a new provider?
    You can do this using Number Porting. Porting your number means that you will keep it while you change carriers. If you decide to port your number, you should talk to your current telecom provider and request a PAC or Porting Authorisation Code. Give this to your new provider and they can organise the switch. Keep in mind the process can take several days, so you'll need to establish a potential business disruption plan in case your number stops working for a day.
  • Can I get a toll-free or freephone number for my business in the UK, and what are the costs involved?
    Most VoIP phone providers offer a freephone number as part of their call package. Depending on the provider, you will likely be charged etiher a monthly fee for a set number of 1-800 minutes, deposited into each user's account. If you exceed your bundle limit, additional minutes can be purchased automatically. Otherwise, some firms choose to add a small charge per outbound or inbound call.
  • Why should I get a business phone number?
    Business phone numbers offer plenty of benefits over using a mobile phone. Chiefly, customers will be able to contact you for help or queries without risking your employees' work-life balance and remote work flexibility. In terms of brand perception, a business phone number also enables 24/7 communication, builds trust, and demonstrates professionalism. You can also scale up with local or UK-wide numbers, make money back from service desks, and work from anywhere using call routing.
  • Can I get multiple business phone numbers?
    We don't recommend getting multiple phone numbers as this could confuse customers and cause them to get frustrated if they have to try multiple numbers to get in touch with your company. If you have multiple employees who need access to a business phone, find a VoIP provider that offers call routing. This feature allows users to direct incoming calls to available agents. is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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