Landline - House Phone Number

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A landline telephone (also known as land line, land-line, main line, home phone, landline, fixed-line, and wireline) refers to a phone that uses a metal wire or fibre optic telephone line for transmission as distinguished from a mobile cellular line, which uses radio waves for transmission.

In 2003, the CIA reported approximately 1.263 billion main telephone lines worldwide. China had more than any other country at 350 million and the United States was second with 268 million. The United Kingdom has 23.7 million residential fixed homephones. The 2013 statistics show that the total number of fixed-telephone subscribers in the world was about 1.16 billion. The number of landline subscribers continuously decreases due to upgrades in digital technology and the conveniences that come with switching to wireless (cellular) or Internet-based alternatives.

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Fixed phone

A fixed phone line (a line that is not a mobile phone line) can be hard-wired or cordless.

Fixed wireless refers to the operation of wireless devices or systems in fixed locations such as homes. Fixed wireless devices usually derive their electrical power from the utility mains electricity, unlike mobile wireless or portable wireless, which tend to be battery-powered. Although mobile and portable systems can be used in fixed locations, efficiency and bandwidth are compromised compared with fixed systems. Mobile or portable, battery-powered wireless systems can be used as emergency backups for fixed systems in case of a power blackout or natural disaster.

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Dedicated lines

The term landline is also used to describe a connection between two or more points that consists of a dedicated physical cable, as opposed to an always-available private link that is actually implemented as a circuit in a wired switched system (usually the public switched telephone network). So-called leased lines are invariably of the latter type; the implications of a land line in this context are security and survivability. For example, a military headquarters might be linked to front-line units "by landline" to ensure that communication remains possible even if the conventional telephone network is damaged or destroyed. Another example of this is in airports. All air traffic control towers have dedicated lines connected to the police, fire department, hospitals, army, etc. Deployed as a precaution in case of emergency, these can be used at any time.

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Decline of the landline phone

In recent years, the landline telephone has seen major decline due to the advancement of mobile network technology and the obsolescence of the old copper wire networking. In the coming years, the use of these networks will be deemed completely out of date and replaced with the use of more efficient broadband and fiber optic connection extending to rural areas and places where telecommunication was much more sparse. Some see this happening as soon as the year 2025.

In 2004, only about 45% of people in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 owned cell phones. As a means of communication in that time, they had to rely on the use of landline telephones. In just 4 years' time, that percentage reached a total of about 71%. That same year, 2008, about 77% of adults owned a mobile phone. In the year 2013, 91% of adults in the United States own a mobile phone. Of that 91%, almost 60% have a smart phone.

In Canada, more than one in five of households use cell phones as their only source for telephone service. In 2013, statistics showed that 21% of households claimed to only use cellular phones. Households that are owned by members under the age of 35 have a considerably higher percentage of exclusive cell phone use. In 2013, 60% of young household owners claimed to only use cell phones.

Landlines in the United States

There are many theories as to why landline telephones have decreased in usage in the United States. The first quantified reasoning behind it is because as internet access increases, the usage of landlines decreases. Between 2004 and 2014 the lines decreased, but internet usage increased steadily. With internet usage going up so does handheld devices. As of January 2014, 58% of Americans have a smartphone. 32% of Americans have an e-reader, 42% own a tablet, and 90% have a cell-phone. As of May 2013, 21% of Americans participated in a video call and 81% of Americans sent or received text messages. This only adds to explanation of why the landline is going extinct. Having a hand held device makes life simpler. Most cell-phones and all smart phones can download applications, send emails, and access the internet. By the second half of 2013, 41% of Americans surveyed by the CDC stated that they did not have a landline telephone, but instead had a wireless phone.

From across America, people are switching to wireless only households. Idaho comes in the highest percentage of wireless use with a percentage of 52.3%. The lowest is New Jersey with 19.4%. Wireless only households are more likely to occur in low income households. Suburban areas are also more likely to be wireless only households. The wireless-only lifestyle occurs in poor neighbourhoods and among young adult households, with 65.6% of adults ages 25-29 living in households that were wireless only. The number is only slightly less, 54.3% for adults 18-24. Ethnically, wireless only households are predominant among Hispanics with 60% of those surveyed being wireless only.

Landlines in developing countries

In many countries the landline has not been readily available to most people. In some countries in Africa, the rise in cell phones has outpaced any rise in landline telephones. Between 1998 and 2008, Africa added only 2.4 million landlines. However, during this same time the number of mobile phone lines that have been subscribed to has skyrocketed. Between 2000 and 2008, cell phone use has risen from less than 2 in 100 people to 33 out of 100. In developing countries it is more difficult to install landline copper that is accessible to everyone than it is to install mobile wireless towers that people can connect to from anywhere. There has also been substantial decline of landline phones in Indian SubContinent due to emerging mobile phone industry which along with urban areas has also reached rural areas better than the landline telephone.

Global landline decline

Not only is landline use declining in the United States, but in other corners of the world as well. In Europe, over a recent three-year period from 2010 to 2013, fixed landline subscriptions decreased from 42.8 (per 100 inhabitants) to 39 (per 100 inhabitants), while mobile broadband subscriptions significantly rose from 28.7 (per 100 inhabitants) to 67.5 (per 100 inhabitants). Asia and the Pacific account for their drop from 14.2 (per 100 inhabitants) to 12.9 (per 100 inhabitants) fixed telephone subscriptions. During this period, Asia and the Pacific went from 7.4 (per 100 inhabitants) to 22.4 (per 100 inhabitants) mobile broadband subscriptions. In Africa, where most landlines are still connected--a minor decrease from 1.5 to 1.4 (per 100 inhabitants) of fixed landlines subscriptions--mobile broadband subscriptions have dramatically increased from 1.8 (per 100 inhabitants) to 10.9 (per 100 inhabitants). While mobile use is prominent and favored over landlines in Africa, they have not cut the cords altogether just yet. Similar to Africa, the Arab States reported 9.8 (per 100 inhabitants) fixed landline subscriptions in 2010 and 9.3 in 2013, while mobile broadband subscriptions doubled from 7.4 to 15.8 (per 100 inhabitants) by 2013.

The downside

Landlines work by transmitting voice and data signals by copper wire through electric pulses. This means landline phones would still work even if there was a blackout or a satellite disturbance, causing interference with mobile phones.

Plain old telephone service uses a central battery system, where power to operate the basic handset (without call display, speakerphone, indicator lamps or cordless features) is supplied by the telephone exchange. This may allow it to continue operating from backup power during an extended power outage. The same is not true of voice over IP, T-carrier or private branch exchange service, even if the underlying transport is a digital subscriber line or some form of landline.

The effect decreasing landlines have had on contacting emergency services is potentially a safety issue. On September 11, 2001, when disaster struck New York City, tens of thousands of people were calling 911 emergency and the volume of calls flooded mobile towers. Many calls would not go through because of the lack of bandwidth, so the network crashed. The overload of data signals not only delayed communications, but it also slowed response time of police and fire departments because they could not properly communicate.

Another issue is the lack of data and voice coverage in some parts of the world. For example, the majority of the United States has mobile coverage, but some places still do not. This is a concern because in isolated places, there would be no means of communication in an emergency without landlines in place. Also, the decrease in landlines has had an effect on the accuracy of locating someone who calls emergency services. When a landline is used to call emergency services, a nearly exact location can be found; however, when a mobile phone is used, the location is inaccurate and has a radius of 10 to 300 meters.

The advantages that mobile phones have over landlines

The reason landlines are going extinct is that cell phones provide a large variety of options that landline phones cannot. Cell phones give the user a quicker way to communicate with friends, family, and business associates. Also, cell phones give the user a source of entertainment with the various apps that are available to cell phones. However, the most important advantage cell phones provide is constant internet access. This is crucial for all types of people, especially students and people in the business world. Between 1998 and 2005, households with people ages 29 or younger (people who would be more adept to the internet) saw an increase in cell phone usage from 35% in 1998 to 81% in 2001. To go along with this, the percentage of landline telephones amongst the same group dropped from 93% in 1998 to 71% in 2005. Overall, regardless of age group, landline telephone use fell in households from 96% in 1998 to 91% in 2005. In 2013, it was also reported that only 9.4% of homes remain landline-only homes while cell phone-only homes raised to 35.8%.

Other factors are also speeding up the extinction of landlines. One of those factors is maintenance. Landline telephone companies are trying to get the government to cut out preexisting landline infrastructure because it is becoming too much of a financial burden to maintain. Big telephone companies like AT&T are forced to maintain 100% of outdated infrastructure for only 25% of their customers. Another major factor is a generational difference. Young people in today's society are more accustomed to cell phone use, hence they use cell phones far more often than they use landlines. In 2003, only 7.8% of adults and 7.7% of children lived in households that only had cellphones. However, as those kids grew up, that number spiked to 36.5% of adults and 45% of children living in households with only cellphones. The number of households without a landline also rose to 38.2%. This is a 29.8% increase from 2003.

Criticism of survey methodology

Bruce Kushnick, Executive Director of New Networks Institute, has argued that reports of the landline's decline have been exaggerated. In a 2013 Huffington Post article, Kushnick accepted the notion that Americans were dropping landlines but also noted that many journalists and phone company providers have relied too much on limited statistics released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Kushnick criticized the CDC's methodology, stating that "the CDC statistics are really the Voice Link of data. The customers who have data applications, like grandma's Life Alert, or a small business using an ATM or DSL service or anything over the wire that is not a residential voice call, has not been counted."

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Impact of declining landline use

In the 21st century the landline will soon become very scarce. The landline's becoming obsolete will have an impact on many things. One of the areas that this will have an effect on is the way national health surveys are conducted. For years, these surveys were conducted by running a probability based random digit dialing (RDD). This method has been useful by scientists and others to collect the necessary data; however, with 1 in 4 adults without a landline, the way these surveys will be conducted has changed. These health surveys are now being conducted through dual-frame designs, which include calling mobile phones as well as some remaining landlines. This method allows the data collectors to obtain relevant data while adapting to the changes in new technology.

This shift from "plugged in" to wireless has also had an effect on the political process worldwide. Since the increase in mobile phones, many politicians have had to change the way they reach out to potential voters. In some countries (including China/Hong Kong, Canada and the United States) the mobile subscriber pays airtime for all calls, incoming or outgoing. This means this method of advertising is not allowed by politicians. In turn, pop-up ads, blogs, and commercials have been used in place of landlines, costing political teams more money, time, and resources than when reaching out to a voter using a landline.

As 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet, studies show that the percentage of adults who own cell phones have risen from 53% (in a poll taken from 2000) to 90% in 2014. Digital technology is becoming increasingly more essential to daily life, while traditional products, like the landline, are more dispensable. In 2006, a poll showed that 48% of adults could not live without their landlines. The number has dropped down in 2014 to only 17% of adults who say they could not get rid of their landlines, while 44% of people cannot live without their cell phones.

In Canada, more than one in five of households use cell phones as their only source for telephone service. In 2013, statistics showed that 21% of households claimed to only use cellular phones. Households that are owned by members under the age of 35 have a considerably higher percentage of exclusive cell phone use. In 2013, 60% of young household owners claimed to only use cell phones.

Future of the landline

The symbolic landline that once connected us to the world is on its way to extinction by its wireless replacement.

In 2013, Verizon refused to rebuild and rewire landlines damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking, New Jersey, which served 855 of the 3,000 homes with conventional telephone service. As an alternative to landline, Verizon is instead promoting its Voice Link wireless box, which generates a virtual analogue line from a mobile connection much like an ATA generates a virtual telephone line from a broadband voice over IP connection. The box does not work with remote medical monitoring devices, home alarm systems, fax machines, dial-up modems, credit-card machines or international calling cards. There is no operator assistance and no support for collect calling. The inability of the device to handle data calls has raised objections from the AARP, as wireline data is needed to transmit information for pacemaker monitoring.

Many of the 2,700 lines on western Fire Island were also damaged by the storm; as there is no cable modem service, wireless telephones were the sole alternative until Verizon, in response to public pressure, deployed FiOS to areas affected by its unwillingness to rebuild damaged wireline infrastructure.

AT&T has sought to abandon plain old telephone service by copper landline by 2020. In a 2014 pilot project in Carbon Hill, Alabama, AT&T Inc. proposes a permanent switch from landline to wireless or broadband fibre, withdrawing plain old telephone service over copper lines.

Many of the consumer protections which regulators apply to incumbent landline providers, such as restrictions against cutting off subscribers without notice, do not apply to rival media such as cable modems and voice over IP.

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