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One-third of US households chuck landlines; now use mobile only

One-third of US households chuck landlines; now use mobile only

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The fading of landline phones has important implications for businesses and governments.

A study by the US government finds that a significant slice of American households now only use mobile phones and have abandoned landlines completely.

Preliminary results from the January–June 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow. More than 3 of every 10 American homes (32%) had only wireless telephones (including cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones) during the first half of 2011—an increase of close to 2 percentage points since the second half of 2010.

In addition, nearly one of every six American homes (16%) received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones despite also having a landline telephone.

The estimates are based on in-person interviews that NHIS conducts continuously throughout the year to collect information on health status, health-related behaviors, and health care utilization. The survey also includes information about household telephones and whether anyone in the household has a wireless telephone.

The findings, which show the landline rapidly fading as a household staple, have far-reaching implications for telecom providers, local and regional governments (including emergency responders and infrastructure planners), and research firms that rely on telephone surveys to gather data.

The NHIS survey also found that wireless-only households prevail among several demographic groups:

  • Younger people: Nearly 6 in 10 adults aged 25–29 (58%) lived in households with only wireless telephones. The percentage of adults living in households with only wireless telephones decreased as age increased beyond 35 years: 34% for adults aged 35–44; 22% for adults aged 45–64; and 8% for adults aged 65 and over.
  • Roomate situations: Nearly three in four adults living only with unrelated adult roommates (71%) were in households with only wireless telephones. This rate is nearly twice as high as the rate for adults living alone (38%) and three times as high as the rate for adults living only with spouses or other adult family members (23%).
  • Renters: More than half of adults renting their homes (52%) had only wireless telephones. This rate is more than twice as large as the rate for adults owning their home (21%).
  • Men: Men (31%) were more likely than women (29%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Lower-income groups: Adults living in poverty (47%) and adults living near poverty (38%) were more likely than higher-income adults (28%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure