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Tracking the Landline's Demise

Some 22.9 percent of U.S. adults have a wireless phone at home but no landline, according to new data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And the younger the generation, the more likely that is to be the case. Although every age bracket shows a move towards wireless-only use, nearly half of respondents in their 20s have already made the leap, according to the agency’s latest Health Interview Survey, which measures the July to December 2009 time frame.

The report’s results (found here in a PDF) are generally in line with those contained in AT&T’s (s t) filing to the Federal Communications Commission last year, in which the carrier requested that mandatory landlines support be eliminated from legislation. Additional findings from the CDC study that point to the inevitable end of the landline include:

  • Two of every nine adults live in wireless-only homes as compared to two out of every 17 in 2006.
  • Although wireless-only adoption rates for survey respondents decrease dramatically after the age of 35, every age group shows an increase in wireless adoption over prior-year surveys.
  • The number of unemployed and retired adults using only a wireless phone has doubled to 20.2 percent from 10.3 percent since the midpoint of 2006.
  • Even among households with both landline and wireless service, 25.7 percent of calls were on wireless telephones, and the CDC considers such households “wireless mostly” due to their increased reliance on cell phones. They account for 16.3 percent of all households, up from 14.4 percent in the first half of 2008.

The CDC only surveyed adults for its report, but the Pew Research Center recently shared similar data points for those under 18 and found that 38 percent of all teens surveyed communicate using a wireless phone.

And 75 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 17 own a cell phone, up from the 45 percent in 2004. As these children reach adulthood, the trend will only continue — if not accelerate — to hasten the demise of the landline.

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Thumbnail image from Old Telephones via Flickr Photo of AT&T building by Mr. Bill via Flickr

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8 Responses to “Tracking the Landline's Demise”

  1. I found the stat that 20% of unemployed and retired people had also ditched a landline very significant. These are groups you don’t generally think of as early adopters or on the vanguard of consumer trends.

  2. I am startled by the shortsightedness of telecoms with respect to landlines and cellular alternatives. I ditched my multiple lines in 1998 or so when my fax line filled with junk, and I discovered that I could simply give my son a cell phone for less than what I payed for the land lines. Then I got a cell card as well for my laptop.

    Using homes to extend network coverage for cellular like products seems like such an opportunity, and yet, they make the customer pay. How bizarre is that? Stuffing a few terabytes of popular movies and music in the neighborhood seems like a fantastic way to reduce network overhead.

    It is also hard to believe that fiber isn’t available…

  3. Indu Das

    makes total sense. I think the only reason, wireline is not completely dead is because the unlimited cellphone minutes are still not very affordable or always available by providers.

    Similarly once the VOIP calls among smart-phones becomes common, the cellphone as we know it, will start vanishing.

    just a common-sense technological change ..