Landline Usage Continues To Plummet

Landlines could soon be relegated to providing a fixed-line broadband service only, as new data from Ofcom pointed to the continued decline of landline voice calls.

The new data from the UK communications watchdog found that in 2012, people in the UK made a total of 103 billion minutes of landline calls, but in 2017 that fell to just 54 billion.

The data shows that dependency on the humble landline continues to decline, but over the same period the number of mobile call minutes continues to rise, while people’s monthly mobile data consumption soars.

Landline decline

Between 2012 and 2017, the Ofcom data showed that mobile call minutes have increased steadily from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion.

However the real growth has come in the mobile data, with the average person’s monthly mobile data use soaring from 0.2 gigabytes to 1.9 gigabytes.

Ofcom said this trend confirms the fact that younger people are increasing utilising messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Facetime, or even Skype, rather than use their phones to talk.

And as expected, the Ofcom found that older people still buy into the “its good to talk” approach, as most of the older generation perfering to have a conversation.

A 68-year-old participant from Belfast told Ofcom: “I prefer to speak to a person. You can get a better understanding.”

And people are increasingly not needing to remember phone numbers, as contact details can be stored in both mobile phones and indeed landline handsets.

So what next for the humble landline?

Well Ofcom perhaps unsurprisingly predicts that in the coming years, it will become more common for calls to be made over broadband, rather than traditional telephone lines.

This will likely remove the familiarity of area dialling codes.

“Some of us can remember a time when we stored phone numbers in our head, rather than our mobile,” said Liz Greenberg, Head of Numbering at Ofcom. “But the way we use and feel about telephone numbers is changing.”

“In the future, as more calls are made over broadband, dialling codes won’t need to be fixed to a particular part of the country,” said Greenberg. “So the question is – could area codes become a thing of the past?”

Ofcom said that there are currently 1.3 billion landline phone numbers in the UK, of which 400 million are currently allocated to telecoms operators.

Landline indifference

Previous research mobile research firm RootMetrics claimed that Brits were becoming so dependent on mobile technology that 95 percent “wouldn’t struggle” without a landline, with many preferring to use their devices for calls and data services while in the home.

It found that calls and texts remain the most common uses for mobile phones, something which RootMetrics says is contributing to the decline of the landline.

However, a third also prefer to use a cellular data connection than their home Wi-Fi network and 13 percent say they use 3G and 4G all the time.

Other research from London broadband provider Relish agreed with this, after it found that the UK has become a nation of mobile phone aficionados, having nearly completely abandoned traditional landline phones in favour of mobile devices.

Indeed, its research found that over a quarter of Britons do not even know their home phone number.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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