vintage rotary pone

A guide to sending a text to a landline

Have you ever picked up your home phone and found that for some reason, someone has sent a text to your landline?

If you have, it’s probably been someone you know, using your landline number by mistake, rather than your mobile number.

But SMS to landline is a real service that exists. This guide explains all.

Is it possible to send an SMS text to a landline?

Yes In most countries, sending a text to a landline is possible.

All UK landline telecoms providers have a text to landline feature that allows landlines to receive texts.

What happens when you send a text to a landline?

If you send a text from your mobile phone to a BT phone line, the text is normally delivered as a voice message.

Surprisingly the user experience isn’t as bad as you might imagine.
The sequence of events is as follows…

Send text from mobile phone to BT landline.

BT landline rings with the caller ID as an 0845 number.

When you answer, there’s a short announcement and then an invitation to press 1 to listen to the message.

The message is then read out by a bot, in a slightly clunky but completely understandable way.

If you send more than one text, then there tend to be delivery delays. Some messages failed to arrive at all.

Here’s a brief video of a landline receiving a text message

Receiving a text on a landline from The SMS Works on Vimeo.

Can you send a message to a landline using an SMS API?

vintage computer

Our tests, sending from our own SMS API were partially successful, some texts arrived and were read out by a bot, others failed to arrive.

We sent a test with an alphanumeric sender ID to see how the service handled that.

The message arrived but the sender ID was replaced with a long number. So you definitely can’t set the sender ID, using an SMS API.

If you sent a large text campaign to customer landlines, it’s likely there would be a high non-delivered rate.

Is it a good idea to send your customers texts to their landline?

No, is the simple answer.

While some of your text messages will arrive, almost no one will thank you for it. The user experience isn’t terrible but it’s certainly not going to win you any awards for customer service.

Sending texts to landlines may come across as outdated and inconvenient in a world where online telephone services are readily available.

When your landline rings you expect there to be a human to speak to, not an unconvincing bot reading out a message.

There is also no convenient way for a customer to respond to a text on their landline. What is the call to action going to be? Customers can’t reply to the messages and they’re hardly likely to go straight online to a website or send an email.

With so many dubious recorded voice messages schemes, this will simply feel like a scam to most people.

You’re far better off asking your customers permission to send them texts to their mobile, rather than hoping that they don’t mind listening to a text being read out.

The damage to your brand and company reputation is likely to far exceed any benefit. Avoid!

Are you allowed to send a text to landline under GDPR?

We were unclear whether additional consent is needed to send texts to customer landlines so we raised a specific query with the ICO. (The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK government body that oversees the rules around electronic marketing.)

The ICO don’t publish specific advice on this rather obscure corner of marketing rules. The ICO’s Christopher Harrison, who was very helpful on their livechat service, suggested that additional consent might not be required.

Rules on sending sms to a landline

We’ve agreed that I will send a more formal advice request by email and the ICO will respond to me writing.

I’ll post the response here when it arrives.

Is text to landline available on all landlines?

Old nokia phone blue


Even for British Telecom customers, the list of exclusions is quite extensive.

For example the service isn’t available for BT Pay & Call customers, In-Contact Plus customers and BT Public Payphone lines.

Also it’s not available between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and doesn’t work if you text from a T-mobile phone.

A text to landline is also available for Virgin Media customers, again with a list of exclusions.

How much does it cost to send a text to a landline?

Text to landline services are always free to receive. The cost of sending the text to landlines is usually one text at the network’s standard rate. 

Normally this is between 8 and 12 pence per text.

Sending texts to landlines is normally included in your free monthly text allowance or bundle.

Do you need to switch on the text to landline service, or will it just work?

For most landline customers in the UK, the text to landline service does not need to be switched on. 

There are however a huge number of different tariffs, price plans and exclusions, so there’s no guarantee that you message will arrive.

Which landline telecom providers support SMS to landline in the UK?

The distinction between a traditional landline provider (like BT) and mobile companies has blurred in the past 15 years or so.

Most traditional mobile companies now offer landline services and vice versa and the list of companies offering SMS to landline service is increasing. 

Most providers offer all inclusive packages that combine broadband, mobile and landline deals

Here are the main providers.

Landline provider Support text to landline
British Telecom (BT) Yes
Virgin media Yes
Talk Talk Yes
Plusnet Yes
Vodafone Yes
Sky Yes
EE Yes
Zen Yes


Can you opt out from a text to landline service?

The sms works padlock

The simple answer is yes but it may be more complicated than you might hope or expect!

There’s no one universal way of stopping the service if you’re unlucky enough to be bothered by too many texts.

To unsubscribe from the service you’ll need to take a detailed look at the provider’s website and search for the unsubscribe instructions.

Most suppliers have a number you can ring with menu options, one of which will allow you to switch SMS to landline.

Has anyone ever run a successful text to landline campaign?

In the 20 years we’ve been involved in all things SMS, we’ve never come across a single case of a company specifically targeting customers by sending texts to their landlines.

It’s no great surprise, the experience is clunky and most consumers find SMS on their home phone line intrusive and irritating.

The only campaigns we have heard about are scams, so best give SMS to landline a wide berth.

Related articles

A guide to SMS sender ID What is an sender ID? How many characters can you use and are spaces permitted – all is revealed in this short guide

SMS 2fa Most companies now use 2 factor authentication for logging into services or making purchases online. What are the different options and what are the pros and cons of each.

Sending a text from a phone box Wait, really? You can send a text from a phone box? Why would you what to do that? A curious service that’s still running.

author avatar
Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry