/ Technology

Who needs a landline in the age of mobile phones?

Wired phone and mobile phone

In a multitasking age when a mobile phone is as versatile as a personal computer, why would anyone bother with a landline? Does anyone really use them any more?

I received a call from a university friend recently, not on the mobile number that’s saved to my handset’s phonebook, but from an unrecognised landline number.

I point out that he’s a uni friend to illustrate that he’s the same age as me (31) and more importantly, that he’s the only uni friend who’s ever called me from a landline.

It came as a surprise. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but there are only a few landline numbers saved in my mobile’s directory, and they’re seldom used.

Who uses a landline phone?

I have broadband at home so could plug in a landline phone – but I don’t. And I almost begrudge the small charge latently included in my package for my assumed phone line use. I share a flat with two friends – each of whom has a mobile phone – and the thought of getting a landline has never crossed our minds.

Perhaps it would be different if I were married with children. I asked some sub 35-year-old friends and only a few had a phone tethered to their walls back home. One said that he had a landline, but only took calls from his mum and mother-in-law.

Another colleague admitted to having a landline, but on closer inspection, discovered it was faulty. A repair wasn’t high on his list of priorities.

The freedom of a mobile phone

The reason I don’t have one, and don’t ever expect to, is because landlines are so restrictive compared to mobiles. I don’t have to rush downstairs to take a call, because my mobile follows me upstairs. And I can carry out a number of tasks on my mobile that I couldn’t on a home phone – web-browsing, texting, e-mailing and arithmetic, to name but a few.

Before attention is drawn to my avatar photo, I should point out that I believe a hardlined phone still has its place in the workplace – I don’t want to be pestered about my articles when I’m down the pub.

And of course there are the other benefits of a landline: it can be cheaper to make and receive calls, you have an excuse (‘I was out’) for not answering, the sound quality is often better, and it’s less likely to be lost. But for me, the pros just don’t stack up high enough.

Say goodbye to the landline

Many users swear by them however, but like cheques, I see them fading out of existence within the next decade.

There was a TV ad recently where a girl complained that her absent father always called her from his mobile. The company’s message appeared to be that a mobile call is a more flippant and less meaningful form of communication.

The ad struck me as nonsense – a contrived attempt to make people believe that landlines still have a place, when for me, they clearly don’t.

Do we need landlines in the age of mobile phones?

Yes - I use my home phone all the time (69%, 690 Votes)

I don't know - they're useful for relatives, but annoy with sales calls (20%, 195 Votes)

No - home phones are pointless (12%, 115 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,000

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Is Ben Stevens ever going to put his head above the parapet and come back to this conversation he started with his provocative [and un-consumer-ist] comments? So many excellent reasons for having a landline have been given by other participants but here are a couple of further thoughts: 1. The home security company uses the landline for their fault monitoring and intrusion detection system. 2. The electricity for my landline services is supplied by BT and has never, ever, failed whereas I have to recharge my mobile phone every day; we get quite a few power cuts in Norfolk and I do not want to put my emergency communication facility in jeopardy. Furthermore there is no doubt that a call to the emergency services from a landline will always be supeior in terms of speed of connection, speed of fixing location, and clarity of reception. The mobile phone is vital when out and about; indeed, I have had to use it on a few occasions for emergency calls but found the signal strength and transmission quality unreliable. And another thing … I actually rather like sitting down with the telephone instrument and an appropriate beverage to speak to people, whether they are friends, relatives, or just call centre clerks, and I am probably less irritable with cold callers than I would be if they caught me on my mobile phone.

Andy Hessentaler says:
25 August 2010

My home phone hasnt rung since 2003. Ahh…brings back memories now. I remember the moment it last rang really well, it was a bloke who could bearly read the script he had in front of him offering me a free quote on some new windows. Was a welcome distraction from the film I’d been watching at the time.

Ben Steven’s you talk alot of sense.

Marjie Cheesman says:
25 September 2010

It would be a total wipe-out for us without a land line. We have no mobile signal anywhere in the village.
I contacted my mobile provider and asked them why. Their reply was that there were plenty of masts around the area and that there are no plans to do anything more for us. We have a similar problem with TV signals. So despite being the first area to go digital everyone has had to pay for a satellite connection. However we can’t do that with a phone. Please don’t remove land lines.

Celia simpson says:
28 September 2010

As I don’t have a mobile signal where I live, my landline phone is absolutely essential!!

Our landline uses cordless phones, so the phone follows us around the house, garage or garden. Packaged with broadband, all UK landline calls are free. Costs around £180 pa including line and calls to mobiles. Have a corded phone connected as well in case of a power cut. When away from home I use a mobile on PAYG. Interested to know how much it costs people whose only phone is a mobile. Also, just started using Skype – family currently working in China – brilliant for video calls, much better than voice only. Good for messaging as well. How do they do it for free??

Pedro Stephano says:
3 October 2010

….you may choose to pay for some Skype services such as Skype-on-Mobile, where calls abroad use up your Pay-as-you-go balance. Great for hands-free calls to relatives overseas whilst burning up motorway miles. Also you can pay to have free calls to landlines in other countries on a monthly payment contract. Also you can pay to have a virtual number e.g. say you have customers in USA, but you live in UK. Customers call a US number -> get you on Skype here in UK. Great for business. Net result? All of these paid-services pay for the ones that you have for free.

Pedro Stephano says:
3 October 2010

……and no-one has yet touched upon the greatest bugbear of this idea – 0800, 0845 and 0870. These calls are *not* free from landlines and rarely “the cost of a local call”. If you don’t have a land-line, the price you pay for these numbers is the “Through The Nose” price!! 40p a minute is possible on some carriers. Makes hold music expensive…….
We have a land-line for emergencies (nod of head to the power-cut issue), VoIP phones (cordless so all around house) for land-line *and* overseas calls, and mobiles for texting, surfing and calls as well – which end up mostly being person to person as opposed to house-to-house. Skype also features here. There is only one corded phone in the house – next to the main exit for emergency use only. It feels quite peculiar to use I must say.

Jonathan Topping says:
30 June 2021

0800 , 0845 and 0870 are all free from my BT Landline so you’re wrong there

The cost of calls depends on the company and tariff. Calls to 0800 are free via landlines and mobiles. Calls to 0845 and 087 numbers are charged on a BT PAYG tariff and are ‘free’ on other tariffs. See ‘UK Calling Plans & Popular Call Prices’ in this document for details: https://www.bt.com/assets/pdf/BT_PhoneTariff_Residential.pdf

For other providers, costs can be found on their websites.

The point I want to make concerns the ability to use a telephone during a power cut – when the need to dial 999 might be greater than normal because of related problems. This could be a normal power cut to one’s street or a more local loss of power within one’s home due to an accident inside or from vehicle impact.
The point then is that a landline with a corded telephone may be the only way to make a phone call since such phones are powered in any case from the exchange.* But cordless phones are inoperative during a power cut – because the base unit has to be powered for the wireless system to work. Similarly calls made via broadband need the PC to be powered (so I believe). I suspect that, despite the increasing use of cordless phones, most people are not aware of this limitation.
So every house ought to have (at least) one normal corded phone – and that all adults ought to be informed that only it will work during a power cut.

A mobile phone should of course be usable for making a 999 call – ie, assuming that its battery has sufficient charge and that all the repeater stations in the communication chain remain powered.

There seems to be no point in taking a risk, however small, when much could be at stake.

Phil says:
14 October 2010

All I can say is that people who think they can survive without a landline must have better and more reliable mobile reception than anyone I know. I certainly wouldn’t ditch my landline. If you have to dial 999 it’s always best to use a landline, your address will automatically appear on the operator’s computer which could save vital time.

I couldn’t get by for long without my landline. As a number of people have mentioned services like Sky require it for updating, movies, etc. Aside from this the only family members who have reasonable phone reception at home are my parents – and they are of a generation who forget where they left the mobile/don’t have it charged/forget to switch it on.

My sister lives near the centre of Winchester and has a tiny bit of mobile reception if she leaves her mobile on the kitchen window ledge – but that disappears the minute she picks the phone up from the window ledge. I live in city centre Glasgow and have great reception if I stand in the street but if I walk into my traditional Glasgow tenement flat the reception disappears unless I stand with my face pressed up against the window. It seems that these big, old, solid, tenement buildings often have this problem and mobile networks just don’t cope with this easily. This isn’t just down to local coverage but the capability of the signal to get inside my house!

My sister and I do tend to reach for the mobile first to make calls but reception indoors where we each live makes that impossible.

Like one of the other posters I have the Which? recommended Siemens Gigaset cordless phones which mean you’re never tied to the wall.

I wouldn’t want to rely on mobile signals for my broadband connection so have a landline for this too – as I suspect most people do.

I believe landlines will be here for many years yet – although the proportion of voice calls made might change in favour of data (sky, broadband, etc).

Look around you — how many mobiles are TOYS to the user? Many older people perhaps can’t afford the exhorbitant price and the call charges too, as well as handling them. For business use they are undoubtedly great. But I believe overall use statist might make interesting viewing. And don’t forget they are subject to reception, a mobile’s no good if you can’t use it! Long live landlines.

riply says:
21 October 2012

Call on mobiles are routed through the landline network. All mobile networks use a gateway . No landline network no mobile phones. Its the backbone of the service. Parts of the call are done by masts and radiowaves. People asume its all wireless …. no. Also voice quality cant beat landline quality. No credit or power and a mobile is useless. Ever listen to a caller on the radio on a landline compared to a overcompressed mobile speech codec?. Calls connect quicker on a lindline too. 99.9% OF LANDLINE calls get a dialtone first time. How many time do you get a network busy message on your mobile. Also mobile networks overload with a slight spike in usage. Also mobile networks are not sesure the gsm encryption keys have been broke. Ppl who work in banks and credit unions where i live cant use mobile dealing with work related calls dealing with accounts and funds.

Why dont mobile phone providers offer you broad band aswell without having a land line 75% to 90% of people in the uk have mobiles so why should we be forced to get a land line if i was a mobile phone company i would look at this as there is a lot of people who have mobile and never use the land line it cost more in rent than my mobile does a month .

Floosy says:
15 March 2014

Malcolm Richards Oct 2010 says his landline follows him round the house, so it is possible to have a cordless landline.
Several months ago I started using a landline, not having had one for several years. I regret this, but true, in a power cut one can call out
I am considering going cordless for the landline and my mobile will be changed to payg.
Any wise mumblings for a 77 year old??

Richard M says:
5 June 2015

Get a corded phone as during a power cut a cordless phone won’t work as they have a base that relies on an electricity supply.

You could even just buy a cheap corded phone and store it away (Don’t forget where!!!) for a power cut if necessary.

Delora says:
24 September 2014

Nothin lasts for long joni mitchell.

Richard M says:
5 June 2015

I’m going back to using a landline telephone. I haven’t had a landline phone before but I’ve considered getting one for some time now. As part of an ‘add-on’ with Talk Talk, I will now be getting it connected. The main reason why I’m fed up with my mobile phone is the reception and the number of dropped calls. On some occasions during a call I can barely hear what’s been said or the interference is too disruptive. Then on other occasions I can be chatting and the call just cuts off.

For me the landline still has a place and the over-reliance on mobile phones will be detrimental during emergencies, particularly during power cuts.

I plan to purchase a corded phone for the reason that during a power cut I’ll know that it will work and I’ll know where to find it!!

Callum Johnston says:
3 July 2021

I can’t read all the comments so far. Just to say that plenty of people, especially older people, don’t like mobile phones because – more than computers – they are difficult to secure and control. I don’t give my mobile number to anybody if I can avoid it. I need the landline for broadband anyway, and for the reasons others have noted I use it as a phone line every day.