Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Are Landlines Becoming More Obsolete?

A few decades ago, telephones played a major role in day-to-day communication. Early mobile phones were not a threat until SMS was introduced, with the Philippines eventually being recognized as the texting capital of the world. It was only in recent years, however, that mobile phones started to replace telephones. What triggered the telephone’s apparent demise?


The popularity of the Internet boosted the need for telephone lines for connecting via dialup. It got better with the introduction of the faster DSL, since you can use the telephone and Internet at the same time. In contrast, Internet-capable mobile phones lacked quality screens and connectivity to match the speed of DSL. Steve Jobs has a different plan, however.

The iPhone started a new generation of smartphones by packing the power of telephones, personal computers, digital cameras, and music and video players into mobile phones. Wireless connectivity was similarly improved, competing with DSL in terms of access speed. Voice apps even let you talk to people across the globe. The smartphone has become the ultimate communication tool, especially for people on the go. People started dropping telephone subscriptions at home in favour of mobile phones. In our case, most of the calls I get from our telephone are from telemarketers. Friends contact me on my mobile phone.

Telcos are aware of the trend. They started packaging telephone subscriptions differently. Internet access used to be a value-added service on top of telephone subscriptions. That is no longer the case. My current bill describes the service as DSL Bundled Services Data. They also include router-modems for sharing connections via WIFI among PCs, smartphones, and tablets at home. Of course, you can create hotspots on your smartphone, but that will quickly drain your battery.

Are telephones obsolete now? I do not think so. Local landline calls are free. This makes the telephone preferable for business use. Imagine calling a company using a mobile phone and you are asked to wait because all agents are busy. That will quickly use up your call load and battery. In addition, there are unlimited mobile call promos, but these usually work on the same network. You are out of luck if the party you are calling is on another telco.
Landlines can also be configured for PABX, allowing you to call a single number and be connected to the desired party. Imagine calling a company via a call center's array of mobile phones. You have to dial each mobile number until you get to an available agent. You also have the possibility of unavailable numbers while they are being charged. Incidentally, Sykes, a pioneer in the Philippine call center industry is hiring. You may visit the Sykes E-Recruitment Site to apply.
Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
/royc
Disclaimer: this serves as my entry to Nuffnang and Sykes’ blog contest.

30 comments:

  1. Funny thing. Relatively recently (well, about seven months ago anyway) I applied for a PLDT DSL account with a landline. I'm a high roller, so I scored myself a 10Mbps coonection, and I thought having a landline was a bonus.

    I actually haven't used a landline in years. Years. So I was kind of excited to own one again. God knows why. Nostalgia? Maybe. Reliability? Either way, the first thing I did was try to call people up using the darn thing.

    Then I realized I didn't know any of my friends' landlines. I further realized that, much like me, many of them haven't used a landline in years. So... well, I had no reason to call PLDT support as yet (eventually I did, but that's another story), so I tried to order a pizza.

    The first thing I noticed was that the PLDT-provided stock landline had a really low volume. Everybody sounded distant, like we were at two points of a deep canyon and it was windy. Secondly, weren't landlines supposed to be crystal clear? The call quality was muddy as hell. These aren't landlines as I used to remember them.

    Frustrated, I dropped the call and used my mobile phone to call the pizza delivery place. (I have a 30-day Globe Telecom SUPERDUO subscription that allows me to call landlines as often as I wanted to.) The call was loud, crystal clear, and I was able to make an order with a minimum of stress. I had hot, fresh pizza delivered to my doorstep in less than an hour.

    Which kind of brings me to a point. I live in the burbs. I have a signal repeater installed in my house because of all the frigging trees surrounding the area. Never really needed it for Globe, but Smart is weak as hell. The odd thing is, it used to be the opposite, with Smart being stronger than Globe. With that being said, I suppose my point is, mileage may vary depending on where you live and how accessible cell sites are.

    Regardless, it seems to me that mobility has become the more economical and practical choice for everyone. People get cellphones on the cheap and engage in pay-per-use credit services. On the other end of the spectrum, people get expensive smartphones because they could do more things with them. Everybody else follows suit because everybody they know has a mobile number. It's like the circle of life, only silicon. It's the circle of silicon, which, by startling coincidence, is also a term used to describe Pamela Anderson's breasts.

    Even in low cell-signal areas, people don't get landlines. They merely adapt to the environment. If calls only work on rooftops, or if they have to go outside dowsing for a signal like shambling zombies, that's exactly what they do. They don't get a landline. Nobody seems to have one anymore.

    Well, I do. Except it's more of a paperweight now. Occasionally I pick up the handset and play a tune on the dial pad. Then I get bored and I pick up my iPhone to play Fruit Ninja.

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  2. Yes, people nowadays subscribe to the DSL connection, with only the bundled telephone as a bonus. Most of the landlines listed in my contact list today are those belonging to business establishments. We have telephones in Makati and Lucena, both of which are used mainly for inter-family communication between houses, in addition to its main function of providing Internet access. One advantage of having a landline in the province though is you get to call businesses in Manila toll-free, if they have one. I believe you cannot do that with mobile phones.

    I also share your observation on the voice quality of landlines today. I had a hunch before that landlines are now using VOIP, but I have no information to confirm it.

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  3. I don't think the landline will become obsolete because some households have had their landline numbers for years, if not decades, and switching completely to mobile or any other way would be a great inconvenience.

    Years ago, we had our landline cut and we switch to the ones where the landlines were mere sims cards and all you needed was a functioning cellphone. It took us months to finally tell everyone we know that we changed phone numbers.

    The landline is merely adapting by way of sim cards. Some people still have their landlines and they choose to subscribe to another landline number with the sim card. It's fast, relatively cheaper and tons more convenient than your traditional landline. If your whole family is going on a vacation, you can just bring your mobile landline number with you.

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    1. Yes, it is easier to find lost contacts using a telephone directory. On the contrary, those who switched to mobile phones are harder to find unless you have common friends in social media.

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  4. Yeah I think that the telephone now a days is never been used alot. Because of cellphone or smart phone .. But I don't think that telephone will ever be absolute for now or ten year from now.. One reason is there is a lot of people(more on old people)�� simply because they are not use to use wireless phone..they are the people whose to be satisfied by using landline or telephone, as thier communication for their love once or whatever they need to call.. Second is they just an old fashion people(don't get me wrong) anyway third is telephone now a days is just important because many of companies is still using telephone for thier businesses..specially call center business(right me if I'm wrong)
    That is why for me telephone or land line will never be absolute for now or ten years from now..

    Thank you..

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    1. Quite true. Older people may find it complicated to use a smartphone for calling people. There are too many steps involved, and the app icon's location is different with every phone owner. In contrast, calling someone using the telephone is as simple as pressing the appropriate numbers.

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  5. It's been a while since i've used or seen a landline inside a house. Nowadays most people are using their mobile phones for communication since its more convenient and cheaper for some especially will all the unli promos today. Landlines would still be around for a long time especially in third world or developing countries and it's mostly used by offices and businesses.

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    1. Yes, I doubt mobile phones will replace telephones unless its pay per call business model is changed.

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  6. I remember these lines from a movie by Emma Stone. A man was talking through his old radio phone then Emma asked him: "Do you even heard of cellphones?" The man replied: "Do you even heard of brain cancer? There are two things I don't trust when they're wireless, Cellphones and Marionettes."

    Anyway it's a big Nope that land line phones will become obsolete. Or if it happens I wish it's not. Land line phones and Cellphones are like slippers and shoes. They are made for the same purpose but they are used in different circumstances. Wait! Do I even make a correct analogy? Is my grammar even correct? =D

    Land line phone now a days is still being utilized in business offices due to some reasons like it is a lot cheaper and convenient to provide. And it is also pretty obvious that wire is more reliable than a cellular signal. I never experienced in my life having drop call with a land line phone.
    You can talk to it almost as much as you want without burning your ear and face unlike cellular phone off course due to the fact that it is a freaking electronic device.

    I never use land line phone so much. But it is still a security to own one. There was a time that my parents got involved in a vehicular accident. I was just a college student back then where having a "Credit loaded phone" everyday was just a dream. Thanks goodness our land line phone was there so I could call for help!

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    1. Yes, considering that a lot of mobile subscribers are on prepaid, using telephones for emergency situations, if available, is more reliable.

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  7. I don't think so. Although smartphones seems to offer a lot of communication tools or applications, it will be of no use if the phone has ran out of battery or got lost which will never happen to a land line phone. The land line service provides a stronger signal and never ran out of battery and laugh at yourself if you lost it. Companies such as contact centers, hotels, banks etc.will be highly affected if such law will be made terminating all land line services. For other wealthy and advance in technology countries like Japan or U.S, yes its possible but I guess it would take time, but for a third world country? I think it is not possible.

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    1. Yes, advances in technology has made it possible to pack computers into thin mobile phones. However, advancement in battery technologies have been lagging to the point that smart phones are limited by the batteries currently available. Unfortunately, more mobile phone features will always require more power.

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  8. DATA is much better than Voice. Unlimited Calls, Local Charges only!. So, bury the Land Lines, Bury the Mobile (hahaha)... Let's all switch to VoIP/SIP/VideoPhone...all DATA. :D

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    1. VOIP is something telcos would prefer not to endorse :-)

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  9. We are currently subscribed at PLDT DSL at home primarily for the purpose of having internet connection. We choose a landline and internet bundled plan thinking that having an internet connection via landline is more stable. Other than that, we don't really use the landline in making calls. However, I think that landline phones are of great help in the business industries. Landlines are of great use here in our office because a lot of customers calls us there. So I think there are still a lot of people who uses landlines at home. :)

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    1. Thanks for confirming that telephones are still very much in use in the office, especially for inbound customer calls.

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  10. A mother started looking for her family’s cordless phone in her cluttered kitchen. After thirty minutes of searching to no avail, her five year old daughter, who was watching her, piped up, “You know what people should invent? A phone with a cord!”

    This is a story I’ve read in Reader’s Digest several years ago, and is a perfect representation of the leaps and bounds with regards to technology. Those who have only experienced the technology of today (like the kids of the new generation) would probably never take notice of yesterday’s breakthroughs, and thus would never really develop any appreciation towards them. After all, how could they cling to a past they have never known?

    So now we come to question at hand: Are landlines now obsolete? For those who never grew up with them, the answer would be an easy “Yes”. But for those who experienced all the joys and pains of having a landline, they’d beg to differ. Being part of the latter, here are some of the reasons why:

    1. Landlines don’t rely on signal strength. Rain or shine, the trusty landline phone delivers. Especially during holidays seasons where networks CAN REALLY GET MESSED UP (ever tried making calls during Christmas Eve?), the landline can always serve as a reliable alternative when you really need to get in touch with that special someone.

    2. Landlines are low maintenance. Just plug your phone into the line and you’re good to go. No need to charge any batteries or situate it where the signal is strongest. Heck, you don’t even need to monitor it. And being “communal property” you won’t feel bad whenever anyone’s using it. (Are you really willing to share your mobile phone to EVERYONE in your family?)

    3. You can’t “lose” your landline phone. Unless of course, you refuse to pay your bills on time. Unlike cellphones which are a likely target for thieves, I have yet to hear a case where one’s landline phone is stolen. Remember how screwed you felt when you lost your mobile phone? Not a problem for the trusty landline.

    4. Landline calls are relatively cheap. Unless you’re on the SUN network making SUN-to-SUN calls, Telcos can charge you a pretty penny for the calls you make. Ever heard of the term “TELEBABAD”? That name came from the act of staying on the phone for hours on end, made possible by cheap cost of landline calls. Sure you could do the same on SUN-to-SUN calls, but do remember that you’re still limited by your phones’ battery life. (A friendly reminder: Don’t call/make receive calls when charging.)

    5. Having a landline is proof of your residence. Now this is just a bonus. From applying for credit cards to getting new mobile subscriptions, having a landline phone is a necessity: proof that you can be found a specific address and have a relatively stable means of income.

    Such are my reasons why I believe landline phones are still relevant today. Sure there are new, modern options that seem to supplant them, but you can’t deny they’ve stood the test of time for the reason of being reliable. Besides, just like in every other aspect of our lives, when cutting edge technology fails, we always go back to what we know (and proven) that works.

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    1. Good arguments on the importance of telephones today. You listed the things I missed in my article.

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  11. I have also experienced low voice volume on PLDT landlines bundled with DSL. My office and home landlines manifested such a problem when they were installed with DSL as an additional service. Can you imagine the chaos when your hearing-impared lola talks on the phone with your relatives abroad? :D

    Fortunately, the DSL connection helps because we can just go on skype or facetime with the relatives, although lola's hearing is still an issue. But hey, at least we can plug speakers in so she can hear them better. And they can see each other as well, something you can't do with voice calls, whether on landline or mobile.

    Some delivery services require TRUE physically-tethered landlines, though. They know when you submit a "mobile landline" (duh) and they won't accept your request for delivery. This is one thing that goes in favor of physical landlines.

    I also think that landlines still have internet services going for them, especially now that Fibr-At-Home has rolled out. Mobile internet is still quite LIMITED despite being much, much faster than DSL/Fibr, especially with telcos' Fair-Use Policies.

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    1. Yes, these fast services still need a basic telephone subscription. AFAIK, telcos can only offer Value Added Services like Internet if bundled with telephone lines.

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  12. Land lines are at their demise largely due the introduction of smartphones and app technology. Virtually, from these devices, we can see who we're talking to while browsing the web and sending a text all simultaneously in mere microseconds. Try that with a land line - much more, an analog one!!! You can't. No way, Jose!!! Plus, the cost to maintain a land line service is far greater than a centralized system of a broadband network. Redirecting connections per se, require to rewire circuits on a "10-66" or "punch down" block in your home, office or the central office. Not to mention, the added man-hours spent while chasing down each line. With smartphones, it's all done via the world wide web. One press of a button, and Presto! Done! Additionally, business is now done through the smartphone... emails, pix, FLIX, video-shares, etc. with a myriad of services and providers to choose from You can customize your needs at practically, light speed. So, gone too is the monopoly created by Ma Bell, which has been pushed to the wayside. It's a thing of the past, just like -- you guessed it... the land line.

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    1. In terms of features, yes the smartphone wins :-)

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  13. Larger families would save money by sharing a land-line connection as compared to each member having a cell phone.

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  14. I work with both the Gen X & Y generations, but mostly Y. There is this perception that the Gen Y are mostly on mobile and rarely use PCs at all; It is also perceived that they are mostly surfing the net via mobile networks (3G/4G/LTE). The former may be true at times, but the latter is not. While there are some Gen Y’s on mobile networks, a lot of them I know are dependent on available WIFI, free WIFI that establishments offer to get the ‘crowd’ in. And what is the source of this stable WIFI connection? DSL, of course. As long as there is a free WIFI market for these yuppies, establishments will not cease to use DSL. With regards to PC use, most I know get their free access from the office - yes, via a DSL network.

    In my home, as well as other homes I know who have kids (specially gamers), the connection of choice is still DSL. With 2-3 kids connected at the same time (excluding the parents and househelp), stability is a premium. And so DSL is still king.

    While the landline that came with the DSL is mainly used to check on the kids from the office, it still provides great savings in the long run. Imagine having to load up, or even maintain a postpaid account for both parents just to get the same mileage.

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  15. Friends, reading through your comments made me realize that you and I were speaking on different wavelengths. I apologize for not thinking that my perspective did not differ from everybody -- respectively, DSL users.

    I have a 100Mbps cable modem at home. My iPhone is serviced by AT&T which is automatically billed monthly to my credit card. No need to load up or forget about. It has a 2GB LTE data plan that I can share with whomever I choose.

    To maximize the broadband at home, all phone outlets are wired through an IP box (see www.ooma.com), therefore there is no added cost to my pocket except the cost of the device. It comes with voicemail, call forwarding/callback, caller ID and blocking to all 50 states including all of Canada - all at no extra charge! However, people STILL prefer to use mobile devices. I've also configured a WAP with MAC filtering, wireless printing and disabled the SSID broadcast at the router to have better control of the Wi-Fi security protocols.

    At work, via a 1GB connection ported over from fiber, we DO have (landline) handsets which are plugged directly to the PC using Cisco IP Communicator. Phone numbers and extensions are managed through a host file on the switch. Our company has saved a lot of $$$$ every month by not relying on the Telco. And so far, we've always enjoyed a fast, secure and very reliable service. Dial In-Dial Out, video, conferencing, desktop shares, free long-distance ...no latency, no problem. Again, try that with a POTS landline... And, I'm sorry, but DSL is no longer the king....

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  16. Good for you. I believe commercial VOIP services is not available to home users in the Philippines yet. We do have cable Internet, but I am not sure if the quality of service compares with DSL. That said, we have local businesses who have setups similar to yours. For most businesses though, landlines are still the norm here today.

    May I know if the majority of home and businesses there are using the same setup?

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