One Way or Another, More People Are Moving to Cellular

Carl Weinschenk

This piece at Telecompetitor, which describes a new service from AT&T that enables landline phones to use the wireless network via an adapter, is interesting for a couple of reasons.

One of those reasons is not that the service is a breakthrough or innovative. As the story points out, Verizon Wireless, C Spire and Sprint have similar services in the field. What is worthy of note — and which also is pointed out in the story — is that the service is a great example of telcos' increasing willingness to compete with each other. The simple truth is that all telecommunications companies now offer voice, video and data. To compete in some areas and not in others doesn't make much sense. It's a free-for-all, and one that likely will result in subscribers enjoying lower prices, better services and more innovation.

The other point of interest is landline is maturing. There now are at least four service providers offering such services. Of course, this is a particular variant of landline replacement. In most cases, it is people (generally youngsters) simply chucking out their landline phone for a smartphone. In this case, the desktop phone — what in essence is the user interface (the oldest one in telecom, for that matter) — remains, but the actual calling is done on the wireless network.

C Spire still is new to the landline replacement — or, in this case, the partial landline replacement game. Its C Spire Home Phone Connect service was introduced last month. The rationale for the introduction by the Ridgeland, Miss., company was described toward the end of the press release:

Consumer confidence in wireless service as an alternative to traditional landline service is at an all-time high with several southeastern states leading the nation in landline replacement and more than one out of every three users in the U.S. relying solely on wireless service, according to an April 2011 CDC research report.

The explanation is appropriate for the entire segment, not just C Spire.

This local story from North Escambia, Fla., reinforces C Spire's point that the practice is particularly prevalent in the Southeast. What is especially noteworthy is the amount of interest the story, which was posted at, generated. The genesis of the piece was a Facebook question on the topic. The writer got at least 15 responses (he may not have used excerpts from some). On top of that, 10 people responded to the story itself. The bottom line is that stories in local newspapers rarely generate such interest.

The big picture here is that the dividing line between the wireless and wired networks is becoming hazy. Part of this is simply that smartphones are so much more functional and (of course) portable than wired phones that people are switching. Indeed, one of the big issues in the political polling world — a phrase that will be hot until November 6 — is how to accurately account for cell-only homes. That suggests the transition has taken firm root. The decline in wireline telephony, which has been a trend for a few years, is likely to accelerate.

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