Humankind has come a long way from communicating with drum beats and smoke signals. Since the invention of the first telegraph in 1816 and the electrical telephone in the 1870s, we have worked our way toward faster, more convenient means of telecommunications. From transatlantic telegraph cables that lasted only for a few weeks to radio- and satellite-based communications that allow you to contact anyone around the world (and even in outer space), getting in touch has never been easier.
In 2004, 90 percent of homes in the United States had at least one landline phone. Just 10 years later, that number dropped to less than 60 percent. With an expected 280 million mobile phone users in the United States alone by the year 2020, it’s easy to say that landline phones are on their way to obsolescence. However, various economical and technological factors are still in play, and you’ll be surprised by just how many people still use landlines to communicate and access the internet.
The Rise of Mobile Telecommunications
From a consumer perspective, it’s quite obvious why people are drawn to mobile phones. Beyond just mobility, mobile phones have several advantages such as alternative and more interactive ways to communicate. Smartphones, in particular, merge multiple device functions into one convenient package, allowing users to access the internet, view videos, listen to music, and even handle their finances. Indeed, even the most basic concepts like timekeeping can be transformed into smartphone applications these days.
What’s more, with the help of data replication solutions, telecommunications companies can analyze ever-changing consumer data. This helps in network optimization and product development, among other things, ensuring smooth and continuous service and a truly personalized experience. In fact, new mobile phone applications and features are being developed and added, in part due to the data collected from consumers, like hours spent online, types of website visited, search terms used in Google and other engines, and existing applications and services being used, among others.
Why are Landlines Still Around?
When the first commercially available mobile phone arrived in 1984 (Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X), the primary (and only) difference between landline and mobile telephones is that the former uses metal or optical fiber wires and the latter uses radio waves for transmission. Mobile phones were just that – mobile. It took a few years before PDAs and multi-featured mobile phones started to appear on the market.
However, even as the use of landline phones continues to decline year after year and as more and more features become available even in the lowest tiers of smartphones, a recent survey conducted by the CDC showed that 45.9 percent of American households still had landlines. And while the study didn’t go into detail why people still keep their landlines, among the reasons cited by the participants are availability (should cellphones get lost or misplaced), convenience (security systems connected to landlines), reliability (copper phone lines have their own power supplies, which come in handy during power outages; landlines also do not depend on signal strength), and a lack of alternatives in their respective suburbs.
Cost is also a big influence on the staying power of landline phones. For example, those who have cable subscriptions may end up paying more for their preferred services if they disconnect their landline service and opt for mobile services. And for those who simply need a way to be contacted without fuss, then the landline is still the way to go.
For some, landlines are a relic of the past and serve to trigger nostalgia for simpler times. But it is undeniable that there are still those who depend heavily on this “old” way of communicating, and some may argue that its reliability is unmatched. On the other hand, mobile phones continue to break new ground in technology and have proven themselves to be versatile gadgets for communications, learning, and entertainment. All things considered, it’s still advantageous to have these two ways to communicate available to us today.