There’s no denying that landlines were pivotal to communication in the 20th century. By the 90s, it became almost unheard of for a home not to have a landline, with several telephones dotted around the house.
But just 20 years following the landline’s peak, is its demise imminent?
Unexpectedly, a major factor contributing towards the demise of the landline in recent years has been the surge in popularity of mobile phones. According to the Verge, a US Health Department report released earlier this year found that 50.8 percent of American households were using mobile communication only.
Meanwhile, a minority of 39.4 percent had both a wireless phone and a landline, whilst just 6.5 percent of homes were solely reliant on a landline.
The figures show just how quickly the landline has been abandoned in the US, considering just 10 years ago, only 15 percent of households had ditched the landline. But the fact of the matter is, it just doesn’t make financial sense for most households to shell out for a costly landline package, when they’ll most likely find themselves primarily communicating with their smartphones anyway.
That said, it’s difficult to blame the landline’s demise entirely on mobile phones when large numbers of households are replacing their phone line with fibre broadband, which is itself capable replacing the telephone with voice over IP services like Microsoft’s Skype, and Apple Facetime readily available to smartphone users.
Considering internet communication is now quicker and more reliable than ever before, thanks to apps like iMessage and WhatsApp, it’s not difficult to see why households are reluctant to shell out for a landline they’ll rarely use. This is especially the case for many members of the millennial generation, who have grown up without needing to access a landline, so wouldn’t even give it a second thought when buying their own home.
Really though, the landline’s demise only highlights a wider trend – the internet is quickly replacing the need for many traditional services in our homes. This is especially prevalent when it comes to how we view television, with many households, including primarily millennials, ditching expensive traditional cable TV in favour of internet streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
According to Fortune, the industry’s biggest cable company Comcast, shed a total of 34,000 subscribers during the last quarter, which is a massive increase over the 4,000 customers it lost during the same period a year earlier. Whilst it was able to add subscribers to its DirecTV Now streaming service, cheaper online streaming services are just a lot less profitable than traditional cable TV.
Cord cutting is a fast moving trend amongst millennials, whether that comes to ditching the landline, or transitioning away from cable TV. And with internet speed only continuing to improve drastically, combined with the affordability of cordless services, it isn’t likely to be long before the landline becomes defunct.
The landline may not be dead yet, but it’s only a matter of time.