The Death of the Landline


The Death of the Landline

Ian MitchellWhat would Alexander Graham Bell make of all this?  After almost 150 years of faithful service the traditional copper landline my be coming to the end of its shelf life. 

It was the first piece of electronic technology to appear in every home in the country however a recent study of more than 20,000 UK residents across a range of ages showed that over half (51%) now either don't have a home phone or rarely use one.

It's the same across much of Europe and the USA. A government study has shown that one third of all households now only use mobiles, with that figure rising. 

There are a number of factors at work here. Age is a perhaps predictable one with well over half of those polled in the UK aged 61 and above still preferring to use their home phone for most if not all of their calls while more than a quarter of the under 30s said they didn't have a home phone with 80% saying they rarely use one.

Although the first ever mobile phone was introduced as long ago as 1973, a meteoric rise between 1990 and 2011 saw worldwide subscriptions grow from 12.4 million to over 6 billion, accounting for around 87% of the global population and even reaching the 4 billion poorest at the bottom of the economic pyramid.


Old Telephone

Is this the end for the traditional landline? 


So domestic patterns are undoubtedly changing and coupled with that we are witnessing a technological revolution in our business lives.

With the public switched telephone network (PSTN) likely to die off over the next few years, an ever increasing reliance on mobile technology and the growing use of VoIP (voice over Internet) methodology, we are seeing some dramatic changes in how service providers offer telephony services and how, as a result, we receive them.

Some interesting research in the USA recently sought to better understand the disruptive factors and trends U.S. wholesale 'voice' buyers think will most impact their business. 74% of respondents noted that the death of the office landline & desk phone will be the single most disruptive force in voice services, anticipating the continued penetration of mobile devices by business users.

72% placed the migration to 100 percent VoIP as a close second in market disruption, recognising the continued blurring of the lines between wireless carriers and VoIP service providers.

70% of respondents noted the death of "Plain Old Telephone Service" (POTS) as the third most disruptive factor, with providers of legacy phone services looking to gain efficiencies and offer end-users the enhanced features only available from IP-based platforms.

Interestingly, nearly half of respondents cited new competition as their biggest threat, beating out the more traditional threats of pricing pressure or market consolidation.  New entrants approaching telecom from the Software as a Service (SaaS) perspective were expected to compete more aggressively in what has historically been the domain of a relatively small number of traditional dial tone providers. 

We know that the whole marketplace is changing; the way we connect with our customers, the way we shop, how we listen to music and how we disseminate the very information we would have passed on by picking up the landline phone not that many years ago.

The impact of the likes of virtualization, VoIP, the cloud and BYOD (bring your own device), whereby employees are now using their own personal mobile devices in their place of work to access privileged company resources such as email, file servers and databases as well as their personal applications and data, is huge and all leads to a reduction in demand for traditional voice services.

So to return to the question of the future of the landline phone. In its defence, even with all these incredible advances, mobile call quality based on poor reception is still an issue in some areas and packages and call costs may be prohibitive for some. Some still fear the mobile phone and remain to be convinced that there is no risk to their health through its prolonged use. What many are finding though is they are paying their landline rental simply for broadband Internet access.

Coincidentally it is just over 20 years since the first ever text message was sent (For trivia fans the message sent was "Merry Xmas") and this communication has drastically altered the way we communicate today.  It's clear communications are changing at an unprecedented speed and no doubt there will be fascinating developments to come.  But are we convinced that landlines have outstayed their welcome just yet?


Written by Ian Mitchell at 11:00



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