In a lackluster conversation that was actively engaged in the other day, some of my brethren and I grappled with the idea of landlines. Mostly, that they're facing extinction, much like dinosaurs did 65 million years ago. Amidst a rapid moving age I love to call Digital Darwinism, some technologies are approaching obsoletion, with the lovable old landline at the top of the endangered species of communication list. Even the name landline sounds archaic, like bedrock or the word beseech. It has been projected that landlines will be completely obsolete by the year 2025, only to be completely replaced by VoIP and other advanced means of communication.
On the subway this morning, a gentleman sat next to me with a portable CD player – although he didn't go way back by sporting a Walkman, it almost made me queasy that he was using such a clunky, dead technology to listen to music. The comparison might be extreme for some, but seeing that was like witnessing a rotary phone being dialed to enter a credit card number; excrutiating. There are some things that are better left in the past, where vintage doesn't quite qualify as an applaudable fashion statement (unless you reside in Williamsburg). Landlines are seeing the same steady decline, facing a long-winded, agonizing demise that is surely on the horizon.
Verizon's landline revenue has fallen 19 percent since 2007, while AT&T's revenue is down 16.5 percent over the same time period. In early April of this year, AT&T sold off its Yellow Pages service, merely a dusty relic from the landline days, and is contemplating totally cutting ties with its rural fixed lines. In fact, AT&T already passed off large parts of its rural landline business back in 2010 to Frontier Communications.
Currently, about a third of households in the U.S. have cut the landline cord already in favor of VoIP and other communication forms. At this juncture, the question then pretty much remains – Where do I go from here? Well, it's easy to leave your landline behind in the middle ages and say hello to a much cheaper and capable technology in VoIP.
If you run a small business, landlines can rack up costs, plus its simply impractical to negotiate straight from your cell, as service cutting out could be costly and embarassing. VoIP is a great alternative, where price is hardly a factor, requiring only an IP Phone, Internet connection, and/or analog telephone adaptor (ATA), VoIP Gateway, etc. Also, many smartphones and the latest generation of users increasingly use downloadable VoIP apps that mesh well with networking apps, boasting advanced calling capabilities. With the advent of softphones, it's not even necessary to get out of your seat to pick up the phone or dial out. If any advancement provides a means for me to be lazy, it's already a winner to say the least.
Businesses switching to VoIP telephony for their business phone systems have found VoIP to be ideal for complex communications. Many VoIP providers have plans which make the term “long distance” irrelevant, charging for the same cost for calls regardless of geographical location. It's perfect for those that conduct international business, and another nail in the coffin to landline service. Landlines can't compete with free by any standard and can get quite expensive when used to dial overseas. Micromanagement of VoIP systems is easy and usually visual (check out Fonality's HUD), linked through a dedicated system or portal, taking full advantage of the LAN link through Internet. Many businesses have already adopted voice-over Internet protocol by putting SIP Trunking equipment into motion and kissing old-fashioned operators and switch-boards goodbye.
Still not convinced? Well, here is a less tangible but valid insight: People are getting older, new generations are shuffling in. In the same way my Grandmother grew up with black and white television, I'm enjoying broadcasts of sports, video games and the like in High-Definition. Black and white televisions are no longer cherished, nor are they even available. As dramatic as it seems, this is the similar end that landlines will inevitably face as they get swept under the carpet of time, never to be used again. A study by the Division of Health found young adults aged 25 to 29 were least likely to have a landline, and it's safe to say ensuing generations won't embrace or even possess them either. Landlines are simply another expense, and an unnecessary one at that when there are a ton of resources by which to communicate for cheap, sometimes even for free. Falling into the aforementioned demographic, I personally use an abundance of different applications and services in the attempt to even phase out my mobile provider and excusing use of voice-over IP communication, but am not quite there yet.
VoIP is becoming (if it already isn't) the prime alternative to landlines, as a fantastic solution full of savings, flexibility, and features. There exists no possibility of unified communications where connections are from A to B and vice-versa. In the last ten years, more than half of landlines have been ditched. Although the twilight of landline service isn't imminent, it's not a bad idea to switch over to VoIP now rather than wait for landlines to fizzle out completely. That day will come, and all we'll have left as a reminder are telephone poles, which will still be standing proud and functional, supporting the cables conveying VoIP communications. VoIP has more than staying power, it has promise, which are two elements that will be landlines' undoing.