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Jonathan Jensen – Ditch the landline?

Is it time to go mobile only and cut off your landline?

More and more I think to myself – do I really need a landline phone at home? A landline always feels to me like a hangover from the days when people called a location, not a person. They phoned the home number and asked to speak to the person they wanted to talk to. Today, when someone wants you, they call your mobile – that way they get through to you, wherever you are & if you’re unavailable they leave you a message for which you’ll get an alert. These days, when the landline rings at home I tend to ignore it because it’s rarely for me. In the unlikely event that someone does call me at home; I rarely get passed the message anyway! Mobiles tend to be more convenient for outgoing calls, as well. There’s no fighting the rest of the family for use of the line and with huge bundles of inclusive minutes available, using a mobile is no longer the costly option it once was.

OFCOM’s recent report – The Nations & Regions Communications Market 2008 (May) – highlights an interesting statistic. In the UK, only 87% of homes now have a landline phone (down 3% from 2007). So clearly some people are starting to go mobile only – according to OFCOM 12% of households rely solely on mobile communications.

So what do we need a home landline for? Well, there are a number of issues that always stop me finally cancelling it.

• ADSL broadband – in the UK we don’t yet have Naked DSL, where you can order broadband without the PSTN (calls) bit. I guess it will happen but paying for those under-used PSTN lines is a still a nice revenue stream for the phone companies. If you use cable broadband then it is possible to subscribe to broadband without a landline, provided you live in a cable area. By comparison, in the US 30% of AT&T broadband orders are for naked DSL which shows there is a demand for broadband only phone lines. Mobile broadband is increasingly becoming a viable alternative, now that tariffs are looking sensible; however they are not aimed at multi PC households who want to share a connection.

• 999 or 112 emergency calls – This is the “I’ll probably never need it but can I afford to take a chance” one. In the unlikely event of needing to call 999, I can use my mobile – but supposing the battery is flat or one of the kids or a visitor needs 999, what then? With a landline the operator knows for sure where you are. In these circumstances there really is no alternative to a line powered, ‘you know where it is’ landline phone.

• Flaky mobile coverage – It still amazes me just how variable and flaky in-building coverage can be, even in towns and cities. For many people this still makes going mobile only an unviable option.

• Switch to VoIP – Maybe an option but 999 calls is still an issue here. Even when OFCOM makes VoIP 999 provision mandatory, would I really want to rely on it in an emergency. And however you look at it, VoIP just isn’t quite as convenient as the old landline!

• Power cuts – A line powered landline really scores here. Even my mobile will eventually need a recharge!

• Local phone number – Some people like to have a local phone number and it is cheaper to call – that’s why the kids’ friends use it! However for me that’s not an issue; if someone’s calling me they’re probably doing it using a huge bucket of inclusive minutes anyway!

Once you start to analyse the issues you realise just how much life there is left in landlines! For many households there are still several good reasons for keeping their landline.

However, not having a landline would finally educate the last few remaining callers I have who still call me on the home landline – they’d have to call my mobile to reach me!

Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.

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