IT’S NOT 2011: Somehow people ditching their landlines is still news

Wait, people have landlines?

Yeah apparently they do but apparently not for long. I was surprised to run into an article at 9to5Mac of all places saying that for the first time, a majority of households have mobile-only phone service. That slim majority, 50.8%, represents the first time since the telephone was invented that cell phones have won out over landline phones.

More interestingly, only 6.5% of people have only landline service so the roughly 40% of people who have both have to be asking themselves why they are spending the money.

Maybe they don’t have reliable cell service in their homes, which can be easily remedied by a cell booster. Maybe they are getting phone service at a low price (or free) as part of a bundle. More likely they’re the sort of people who “aren’t there yet,” who know that ditching the landline phone is somewhere on the horizon but they just don’t relish the idea of giving their friends a new number or giving up that snazzy-looking cordless phone. Heck, I know if I had one of these I’d be dreading the day I had to give up that iMac-style blue plastic antenna.

Whatever the reason, there are still people out there with landline service, at least for now. Things don’t look good for the old landline phone, but that’s not exactly news to anyone, is it? It’s probably fair to say that landline phone service has been on the decline for a decade or more, and the companies that used to provide only landline service — AT&T, Verizon, and the like — have long since moved on to providing video, internet and cellular service.

No, I don’t think the landline is the real story. I think the real story is that ditching the landline is a “gateway drug.” I think people look at landline service, and they see how they can live without it, and sooner or later they start asking if they can do away with cable television. The obvious answer is that they can of course, and that’s why cable companies lose hundreds of thousands of subscribers per year. People have discovered that a mix of a TV antenna and a streaming box gives them as much or more entertainment than they had before. There’s no surprise there.

No, the big story, hidden all the way at the bottom of the article, is that the author came to the same conclusion I have — that eventually, even wired internet service to the home will probably disappear. We’re a long way away from that, but wouldn’t you ditch your home internet bill if you could? If you could, wouldn’t you have one internet bill — the one for your cell phone — and use that for everything? It’s not fast or reliable enough yet, and the data caps would kill you, but you know that if you could do it, you would. The average home pays well over $100 for internet and television in the home, and who wouldn’t rather ditch that cost?

See that’s what I mean by “gateway drug.” Right now people pay twice for most of their communication services. They pay for landline and cell, home internet and cellular internet, cable TV and streaming TV. All of a sudden the majority of people have figured out that they don’t need two phone services. It won’t be long before a majority of people figure out they don’t need cable TV either, and then that leaves only home internet. Before you know it, you’re paying one bill and that one bill gives you pretty much everything you need. If you’re talking about AT&T, you could even bundle cell phone/internet and DIRECTV NOW to eliminate yet another bill. Sounds pretty good right?

It’s coming. I guarantee it.

And you can sign me up, anytime.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.