Telephone Landline Usage In ‘Terminal Decline’, Uswitch Finds

Research from the price comparison website Uswitch has cast a stark picture on the ‘terminal decline’ of landline usage in the UK.

Indeed, Uswitch’s research found that while 80 percent of British homes have a landline, a quarter (26 percent) of respondents have not even bothered to connect a handset to their landline.

Indeed, more than a third of people (35 percent) reportedly said they only have a landline because it is necessary to obtain a fixed-line broadband connection.

Landline decline

Uswitch surveyed 2,001 UK adults in March this year, and from that data it extrapolated that five million households are never using their landline for phone calls.

Indeed, the number of British homes with a landline has fallen by four million since the year 2000 to about 22 million connections now – down 15 percent from it being present in 95 percent of UK homes in 2000.

But now the landline has fallen to only 80 percent of homes, and of those, a quarter (26 percent) don’t have a handset attached to their landline.

To give a better idea of the decline of landline calling, more than a third of people (35 percent) said they only have a landline because it’s necessary for having a broadband connection.

And more than a fifth of consumers with a landline (22 percent) say they avoid answering their phone in case it is a nuisance call, thanks to the countless fake Microsoft support scammers, or the robotic voiced Amazon order scam calls.

Indeed, for many landline calls are either marketing or scam related. Over a quarter of older people (28 percent) have had a bad experience with scam and sales callers, the research shows.

Almost three in ten landline users (29 percent) say the last call they received was suspicious or an unsolicited marketing call, almost two thirds higher than for those on mobile phones (17 percent).

Want to know more about the landline telephone network in the UK? Read our Tales in Tech History on BT.

On average, households spend just five minutes a day – 35 minutes a week – talking on their landlines, down more than a quarter (27 percent) from two years ago, when people made 48 minutes of calls a week.

Lockdown avoidance

Older consumers make 46 minutes of calls a week on their landlines, compared to 25 minutes for young people.

There’s a generational divide in attitudes to landlines Uswitch found, with their popularity far lower among younger consumers.

More than nine in ten (95 percent) of the over-65s have one, but this falls to four fifths (82 percent) of consumers aged 35 to 54, and ownership drops to just over half (52 percent) among 18 to 24 year olds.

And perhaps one of the more surprising results from the Uswitch study was that landline use even fell during the multiple Coronavirus lockdowns.

Indeed, more than a quarter of households (27 percent) used their connection less during lockdown, compared to only one in seven (15 percent) using it more frequently.

Costly calls

Uswitch found that over a third of households (35 percent) have registered for the Telephone Preference Service to dodge nuisance calls. Younger consumers have taken more drastic action to avoid such calls, with the most popular option among 18 to 34-year-olds being to stop answering the landline altogether.

And it seems that the decline of the landline is not being helped by the cost of using the conventional telephone, which are more expensive than mobile phone. Almost three fifths of households (59 percent) that have both a landline and a mobile phone say making a call on a mobile is cheaper.

Remember old red telephone boxes? Read our Tales in Tech History on that British classic.

“With the rise of mobile phones and network coverage improving all the time, landlines aren’t the necessity they once were,” noted Nick Baker, telecoms expert at “Many consumers – especially younger generations – don’t see the need for landlines, and find it odd that they have to pay line rental in order to have a broadband connection.”

“Nuisance calls have been a problem on landlines for years, and unfortunately they are not getting better, with nearly one in four households reporting the last call they received was from a scammer or sales person.,” Baker added.

“However, it isn’t time to forget about the landline just yet, as they continue to be a lifeline for those in rural communities where mobile reception can be unreliable,” Baker said. “If you’re struggling with nuisance calls, make sure you have registered for the Telephone Preference Service, which should reduce the amount of sales and marketing calls you receive. And if you suspect you are being targeted by a scammer, hang up immediately.”

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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