Will the landline phone become obsolete?

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Do you remember the old pay phones? Those telltale rectangular boothsboxes of glass placed at every other street corner for your calling convenience? Well, they're quickly becoming a thing of the past. If now days trends do not change, landline phones may soon join pay phones in the technology graveyard. (Although making the beocom 5 they must have thought otherwise.

When was the last time you remembered someone's home number? It's likely been a while, as more folks are starting to make the most of their calls on mobile phones. In the United States and Europe, something like 75 percent of the respective populations are wireless subscribers [source: Mobile Internet, Wireless Industry News]. Some European countries even expect to exceed 100 percent wireless penetration soon, due to customers purchasing multiple devices [source: Mobile Pipeline].

As of late 2007, 16 percent of U.S. households had no landline at all, compared to just 5 percent in 2004 [source: Associated Press]. If that rapid trend of ditching landlines continues, 50% of the U.S. will be without one in about 10 years.

Among the people who have landlines in the U.S., 13 percent nevertheless rely on their cell phones for the majority of their conversations. Across the nation, people are hanging up their home phones:

•In New York state, the amount of landline subscribers has decreased by 55 percent since the year 2000.
•New Jersey landline subscribers have fallen by 50 percent.
•Similar trends exist Australia, where industry analysts expect 1.4 million Aussies to cancel their landlines by the end of 2008. [source: Associated Press, Cauley, Woolrich].

They who have made the switch cite several benefits. Wireless telecommunication saves money on local and long-distance telephone charges, frees people up from their desks and prevents having to lay new cables. Laymen Global, the New Jersey company, saved $4,600 on its phone bill by forgoing landlines [source: Runner].

Yet other people aren't convinced that landlines have outstayed their welcome. While VoIP, mobile phones and other wireless communication methods can save money, landline stalwarts don't believe a switch is warranted. They don't believe that the cost of replacement technology can easily eclipse the savings genarated by not installing cable. In addition, local- and long-distance phone charges may be cheaper, but that's not always the case. Making VoIP calls from overseas, for instance, can result in hefty charges.

Security is another factor for customers to consider before letting go of their landlines. It's much easier for hackers to gain access to conversations on a cell phone or through VoIP than it is on a traditional phone line. Some people on the front lines of communications technology think that security concerns could prevent many companies from turning entirely away from landlines [source: Runner].

A final issue that may prevent the landline's demise is simply nostalgia. Employers who do away with traditional phones often regret it when they see their workers going farther and farther from their desks. The convenience of wireless communication can just as easily be a distraction, with salespeople chatting on the phone instead of focusing on their next sale. If landlines disappear, the days of sitting at your desk to complete the day's work may disappear, too.

If you still find yourself having separation anxiety over the possible disappearance of landline telephones, though, you're not alone. A lot of people are fearful of what their disappearance might mean.

Don't feel too sorry for the telephone companies though. While major players like AT&T and Verizon get from one-third to one-half of their revenue from land-based subscribers, they won't necessarily lose those subscribers; they'll just convert them to wireless subscribers instead. So perhaps the companies are right not to be concerned about the drop-off in landlines, but the landscape is undoubtedly changing.

For instance, phone companies are starting to face competition from cable companies, like Time Warner and Comcast, who have lured customers away with their Internet-based communication offerings. Even as their landline subscribers decline, the phone companies still have to fork out billions of dollars a year to maintain the networks [source: Cauley].

Although cell phones and VoIP are increasing in popularity, landlines will probably stick around until coverage and security improve. Specialy if the are as goodlooking as the beocom 2 or the beocom 4. Another one good reason to use a landline is that emergency service providers often still have difficulty locating where cell phone calls originate. So while landlines linger on for now, don't rule out having to explain what a telephone pole was to your great-grandkids.

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