General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

When will land line phones be unnecessary?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25799 points ) April 11th, 2014

Please, note this question is not about why you may have a land line phone.

Many personal consumers still use a land line phone for many different reasons. Some do because there is no cell phone reception in their area. Some do for safety reasons, because a land line tells emergency dispatchers their location.

The vast majority of businesses use land line phones also for many reasons.

There are developing areas of the world where cell phones are growing greatly, because it’s easier to put up a cellular tower than it is to string lines.

How long do you think it will be before land lines are not needed?

Personally, I haven’t had a land line phone for a decade.

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35 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I keep a landline because it is for the household, and people who want to reach just anyone in the household (like grandparents) can do so.

It seems that when I am trying to reach anyone (“just somebody answer the phone!”), there are times when no one has their cell on.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Remember when Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992, it wrecked most of the telephone system on Kauai. The island had more cellphones in use than landlines in 1993.
We have to maintain a land-line for my wife, she works from home. We are in a county with a cable company, a telephone company while the city has a telephone, TV and internet on high speed fiber-optics. This keeps the price down.

canidmajor's avatar

How would one even calculate the time frame you mention? All of the reasons you cite are solid, especially related to business which occupies a huge percentage of the landline consumer base.
This is an interesting Q @Hawaii_Jake. I can’t answer but I’ll be following, hoping someone can.

GloPro's avatar

Land lines are instrumental in 911 activities because it immediately gives the address to dispatchers. This is in part why cable/Internet/landline packages are offered at a much better deal than individual services. Locating ping signals on a cell service in emergencies is not as quick or reliable, and locating cell signals makes some people squawk about their privacy. For that reason I believe landlines will stick around for awhile.
If you recall, when you sign up for an Internet/cable/landline bundle you have to listen to a pre recorded message about 911 services…

Dan_Lyons's avatar

They will never be unnecessary so long as we need them to back up the cell phone system.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I can easily imagine advances in cellular technology that will render land line phones redundant and cost ineffective. When I have the GPS turned on, my phone now knows exactly where it is on the planet. I don’t think it will take much more advancing to make this technology even easier to monitor.

There is the problem of power outages affecting cellular towers disabling the use of cell phones during crises.

There are still many reasons to maintain land line phone capability, but I can readily recognize that this will change. I’m wondering when. It would not surprise me at all if I landed 50 years in the future, and there were no land line phones and found that everyone spoke through a small headset about the size of our current bluetooth ones.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Tough question to answer, especially not knowing why businesses keep their land lines. I find myself hoping that we will keep some of that infrastructure, but I think it is rapidly disappearing. I worry about pay phones vanishing, for instance. There’s something about knowing that you can find a way to connect with help even if you don’t have a working cell phone on you, and it’s late, and there’s no one around. There’s a kind of freedom in that which I hope we don’t lose.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Land lines will become unnecessary when we stop having hurricanes, ice and snow storms, and any other weather that shuts down cellphone towers.

After Hurricane Isobel and Hurricane Sandy, I was very grateful for my land line. Cellphones didn’t work, but my phone never lost service.

kritiper's avatar

When we’re all dead.

jerv's avatar

@GloPro E911 is such that you cannot turn off the GPS on your phone entirely, so while it may be a little slower, they can track you to within 15m pretty quickly. Of course, that is for smartphones; tracking a dumbphone that lacks GPS by just the cellular signal is reliable and inexact… but technology has advanced.

@SadieMartinPaul I had the exact opposite after Katrina, The Ice Storm of 2008, and a few more minor weather incidents that didn’t involve the National Guard. In all cases, anything involving any sort of line was out, so no landline phones. However, my cellphone could still reach an operable tower in a neighboring town, allowing me to make calls.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

When everyone has a cheap but reliable satellite phone that operates of various satellites so you can connect at will.

Lightlyseared's avatar

When phone companies are willing to sell you broadband without a landline.

jerv's avatar

@Lightlyseared Does that include us “dry loop” DSL people? I’ve had DSL but no landline for the whole time I’ve lived in Seattle.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@jerv in the uk the only way to get DSL without a phone line is through our one cable company and while their product is good their cables don’t come anywhere near my building despite me living in the middle of Central London. (On the bright side I can get stupidly fast 1gb broadband via the telephone line but I still begrudge paying the extra £12 for something that only provides direct marketing firms a way to annoy me).

jerv's avatar

@Lightlyseared Nobody says you have to have a phone plugged in. And here in the states, there are few places that even have 1gb internet available. When it comes to connectivity, there are parts of Africa that are years ahead of the US as far as infrastructure.

@Hypocrisy_Central Would a more reliable cell network suffice? Maybe something with the coverage and outage resistance of, say, the rest of the industrialized world?

Lightlyseared's avatar

@jerv. Of couse I don’t have a phone plugged in.

TheRealOldHippie's avatar

Never, because not everyone is in love with, or wants, a mobile phone.

jerv's avatar

@TheRealOldHippie Maybe those that obviously never looked for a job in this era where, if you don’t answer right away, the position will be filled by the time you get home to check your answering machine. Nor have they ever had car troubles in an area with no payphones or nearby homes.

There are people who still use outhouses, wells, and horse-drawn carriages by choice, but we generally stop catering to those people too much more than 50 years after their lifestyle has passed from mainstream to a tiny minority. If you don’t believe that, then tell me when the last time you saw a brand-new 8-track was.

I seriously think that it won’t be terribly long before landlines are only used by those who fear electronic eavesdropping and thus don’t trust certain info to even the strongest encryption… and those that are so anachronistic that they didn’t hear that Lincoln is no longer President.

kritiper's avatar

@jerv Hey! Don’t forget the folks who can’t afford anything other than a land line.

jerv's avatar

@kritiper I have yet to see a landline do “pay as you go, no monthly fee”, though I will concede that data plans can a bit pricey for those that go with smartphones. I could get a pre-paid phone and enough minutes to last me a few months for less than it’d cost me for one month of service for a landline. In fact, for the first year I was in Seattle, that is how I went; it wasn’t until the wife and I decided to get a smartphone (and thus, data plans) that it cost us more than a landline would’ve.

Then again, that landline wouldn’t have been able to call 911 as I was sitting there in a half-crushed car in I-5 either, so maybe I’m a little biased.

It’s also worth noting that many Americans pay more for cell service in a month than many other nation’s citizens pay in a year despite us having worse coverage on a slower network. Then again, our infrastructure is ancient and overpriced in other areas as well, so it really is no surprise that we’re 20 years behind the rest of the First World (and even much of the developing world) there as well.

kritiper's avatar

@jerv It might not do a person or business much good if doing away with a land line meant omission from the Yellow Pages. A worthwhile POV worth some consideration.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@kritiper I have not looked at a physical Yellow Pages in a very long time. Many years, actually.

The Yellow Pages exists online, and I use it there. It saves paper and thus trees, and it’s easier. I type in what I’m looking for on my computer or phone or tablet, and it instantly tells me where to go and often how much something will cost me. It also tells me how far away the item is.

Information online for items I want to buy or stores I want to visit is often more complete, too. It often has ratings from people who’ve been there. I can get vast amounts of information online that is withheld from paid advertisements in the Yellow Pages.

jerv's avatar

@kritiper I am with @Hawaii_Jake on this; phone books are rather… quaint. Better to advertise with web page ads as most people still see web pages, and almost everyone has at least seen one in their lifetime.

I would say that businesses still have a need for landline phones, but even that is fading in this era of online ordering and video conferencing… and even then, it’s usually VoIP rather than a normal phoneline anyways.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I haven’t even thought of the Yellow Pages in years. It’s long obsolete.

kritiper's avatar

True enough on the Yellow Pages, but there are still people who use them, and advertising that is cheap and strategically placed for optimum views (on line or print) is advertising that works! I always check the Yellow Pages FIRST and many of my customers do, too!

jerv's avatar

@kritiper Optimal views are obtained by using a media that people see. Back in rural NH, it made sense; people still used phonebooks. I’ve been in Seattle for about 5 years, and haven’t seen one yet (yellow or white pages). I guess it depends on where you live.

Also, it’d seem cheaper to put up a couple of cell towers than to run thousands of miles of cable, so I see rural landlines disappearing in the future simply for financial reasons. Rural NH lost most of it’s payphones for that reason.

kritiper's avatar

@jerv You didn’t include the added expense of replacing or having to replace your advanced technology due to it becoming obsolete. My good-old land line has never caused me to have an accident because I was using it in the car. I’ve never dropped it in the toilet, or dropped it and had it break and need repair$. I’ve never left it anywhere or misplaced it. It’s never been stolen. It’s never a nuisance in the theater, store, or public transport. It doesn’t need recharging. Or battery replacement$. Yepper, my old reliable land line may not be as fancy as all of those new-fangled electronic gizmos, but I like it just fine. I’d bet there are many others who feel the same way, especially those in remote places where building a cell tower wouldn’t be all that cost effective.
I think the land lines will be around, in some fashion, for quite some time, if not until the end of Man.

jerv's avatar

@kritiper My cellphone has never got me in an accident, dropped in the toilet, or been a public nuisance either. Every argument you just made means you hate the automobile, and long for the days of your childhood when everybody rode horse-drawn wagons/carriages.

You also have no idea how simple or cheap the conversion would be either. If there were demand, there would be tabletop cellphones that lived on AC power, but had battery backup in the case of a power outage… the type of event that usually takes out phone lines as well.

But you’re correct that anachronistic people will always be around. I’ve probably seen more people dressed in Victorian clothes this month than you’ve seen since your teenage years when it was popular the first time around.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@kritiper May I ask what type of telephone you have attached to your land line? If the telephone itself has any type of electrical plug separate from the phone line, then it is useless when the power goes out. Only rare telephones without any bells or whistles that get all their power from the phone line alone are still operational during some power outages.

This question was not meant in any way to be controversial and to pit Luddites against Modernists. This question is about our ideas of the future. Whether we are ready or not, the future approaches.

I still assert as one of my posts above states that if I were to be plopped down 50 years in the future, I would not be surprised at all to see that land line telephones had disappeared. I firmly believe there will be advances in cellular transmission technology alleviating many of our current dilemmas and the cell phones themselves will be very different from what we see today.

jerv's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I wholeheartedly agree, largely based on what I saw in Asia over a decade ago.

@kritiper I’m just teasing you about your age, and mean no offense. Please take such references as the jokes they were intended to be.

kritiper's avatar

@jerv and @Hawaii_Jake Hey! I’m not saying that all technology is bad, I’m only saying that some old tech has it’s place because it still does it’s job very well, depending on what the user wants. My business land line costs less than $25 per month and any business it brings in is VERY cost effective. Dollar for dollar, no new device can offer me the same cost effectiveness. I can/could still use the other more advanced tech for more business, but it all works together to support the bottom line. And that’s what counts!
But I’m leery of (some) new tech that is, literally, being used TO (the) DEATH (of so many), like all of the new stuff that diverts the attention of drivers. And now we will have GLASS!!! Thank heavens for the new tech that will allow cars and trucks to drive themselves (if not soon enough to save lives)!
Just because the stuff is new doesn’t mean that is automatically good for everyone. We are becoming so disconnected from one another, to the point that we are losing our humanity. Some things just aren’t cost effective until just so many people die first.
I still think land lines will be around for quite some time because they still have their place, like light bulbs and disc brakes. They may change some or a lot, but they’ll still be here, doing their simple but cost effective job in some form or another.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@kritiper I have looked through this thread again, and I have not yet found a post where anyone is saying land line phones are going to disappear tomorrow. This OP is asking when that might happen. Do you think it will be in 10 years or 50 years or 100 years? I would like your ideas.

This is an innocent question about change, and—I could be wrong—you seem to be taking this to heart. No one is attacking you.

Just as with the telegraph and it’s miles of wires, there will come a day when land line phones will quite probably go away. Cellular technology is advancing, and improvements in its ability will increase demand for its services. There are already areas of the world where there are no land line phones, because cellular towers are infinitely cheaper to erect than stringing miles of wires. Those places exist now.

I am glad you have a business. I am glad it’s using land line phones successfully. I think a thriving business is a wonderful thing. Both my parents were retailers. I grew up in that world of small business. I love it.

If your customers are reaching you through smart phones that can access reviews of your business through the Internet, don’t you want to be aware of what that information is saying? If your customers are searching for what you offer via the Internet, don’t you want to have a presence on the Internet where people with money who want what you have to offer can find you? There are places on the Internet today, where you can get a free web site (WordPress). These free sites have limited capabilities, but they give you valuable exposure.

Having a presence in social media like Facebook and Twitter is almost a necessity nowadays. I have a very close friend who owns a pizza parlor, and he uses Facebook a lot to drive sales. It’s a good thing.

I am puzzled by what is in my opinion an irrational resistance to the Internet and its place in our lives. Technology like cell phones is not going to go away. It will be vastly different in the not too distant future than I think we can imagine today.

People no longer write letters on big sheets of paper, fold that paper, and seal it with wax impressing a ring in the wax seal. People no longer send those letters by personal messenger. Change happens.

I think we have lost sight of the OP. I would like to invite everyone to read the OP again. This is a question about change and our imagination of that change.

jerv's avatar

@kritiper Some technologies become so cost-effective as they evolve that they just naturally come into our lives. The dropping cost of cellular technology combined with the rising cost of running wires (mostly to replace old or damaged ones) make the “desktop cellular” I mentioned earlier seen likely. If you got the same service from a cell for $20/month, would you consider switching and saving 20%?

Light bulbs are now LED or CFL, and disc brakes are now hooked to ABS. Some things change in evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) ways. I see those things as generally good. The disconnect you seem to have issues with is due to a revolutionary change that started when I was a kid; computers evolved from expensive, clunky, impossible to use things into a household appliance. A $2,000 gaming PC of 2014 is more powerful than a $30,000,000 mainframe of 1980.,and you can get something thousands of times more powerful than the computers we used to crack the Enigma cipher out of the recycling bin. This power has led to information sharing ability that allows humanity to get one step closer to fulfilling it’s full potential and becoming what it’s meant to be.

The fact that we use that power not for knowledge but for cat videos, porn, and cat porn videos is not technology’s fault. Technology amplifies humanity. It amplifies our bad qualities as well as the good, but it’s not technology’s fault that we’re all easily distractable, selfish assholes.

Evolution tends to push old stuff to the margins. Old things rarely disappear completely, but are often only seen in the fringes of society. When was the last time you saw nearly everyone around you in either corsets or top hats and partying like it’s 1899? Steampunks are a very small part of society. Same with Amish people; they still exist, and live largely as they did centuries ago, but they’re a small minority. I see landlines the same as vinyl records; something that was great at the time, but is now too cumbersome, fragile, and expensive to keep around for anything other than nostalgia.

kritiper's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake (and @jerv) I think land lines will continue to exist in some capacity, in some remote places at least, for the next 50 years or more. There are too many in existence now to be ripped out or discarded in favor of some newer, soon to be obsoleted, more expensive, less cost effective, disposable technology. And who knows? Perhaps the lines will find another secure place/function in our future lives? After all, like light bulbs and disc brakes, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” Light bulbs still put out light and disc brakes still stop vehicles.

jerv's avatar

@kritiper Fifty might be a bit optimistic, but I could see 20–30. No sense replacing what still works, though when it wears out, it may be cheaper to replace with new technology. Let the bean counters make that decision.

As for security, you’re entirely correct that some things won’t be entrusted to any sort of radio transmission even with 65,536-bit encryption (the military still uses wired communications on the battlefield sometimes for precisely that reason), but that’s a special case; I was under the assumption all along that we were talking about the regular consumer market.

Though I plan to keep my carburetor-and-distributor Corolla around despite 20 years of OBDII; the old girl still runs well!

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