A 2011 survey by the Division of Health Interview Statistics, part of the National Center for Health Statistics, found that over 30% of American households have taken out their landline telephones and rely exclusively on cell phones. And in houses that have landlines, around 16% do most of their phoning with cell phones anyway. Demographic groups least likely to have landlines include:
- Young adults aged 25 to 29
- Roommate households of unrelated adult roommates
- Low-income households
Some communications industry experts believe that Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP systems, are the final nail in the landline's coffin. Trefor Davies, the chief technology officer of Timico, believes that once mobile providers realize the great possibilities with VoIP, landlines will be done with. The latest generation of mobile phone users increasingly uses downloadable VoIP apps that mesh well with social networking apps, which are wildly popular, particularly among younger users.
Does the strong emergence of VoIP mean that it's time to declare the landline dead? There are arguments both ways.
Arguments that VoIP Will Do Away with Landlines
Businesses that have switched to VoIP telephony for their business phone systems have found VoIP to be great for complex communications, like advanced data transmission and video conferencing. Furthermore, VoIP systems result in significant cost savings over traditional phone systems, and phone system management is far easier, with companies being able to add or remove extensions instantly without rewiring.
Many traditional business phone systems make use of VoIP telephony already through session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking equipment.
Finally, VoIP enables phones anywhere to be called on the same tariff basis regardless of geographical location. Translation: "long distance" is a thing of the past.
Arguments that Landlines Will Be Around for a While Longer
In some rural parts of the country, high speed internet and cell coverage are not available, so landlines will be around until that changes. Even in some urban areas, due to architecture and spots of poor cell coverage, people retain their landlines.
Landlines automatically tell 911 dispatchers the address from which an emergency call is originating, and many older and disabled people want that dependability. Though wireless providers have upgraded phones with features to pinpoint a phone's location, 911 systems have to make expensive upgrades to complete the connection with these mobile phones.
Finally, some customers like the fact that even during power outages, landlines usually work. Of course cell phones do too, but they have to be charged.
Does the End of Landlines Mean the End of Telephone Poles?
Even if landlines all went away tomorrow, telephone poles would not. These poles are used to carry electric lines and cable wires. Where electricity is carried on poles, electric companies usually own the poles; and where it is not, telephone companies own the poles. Phone companies that offer DSL use poles to carry those lines as well. Cable companies use them, but generally don't own them. What's more, cell towers are connected to what are known as T1 lines, which are run over the wired telephone network, and providers like FiOS and Uverse use the poles to bring fiber optic cable to homes.
While landline use is declining, VoIP has not killed landlines (or telephone poles) altogether, nor is it likely to in the immediate future. Businesses rely increasingly on VoIP technology due to cost savings, flexibility, and features, but landlines still have a place in some residential and business applications.