the end of landlines: time to cut the cord!

It’s a matter of survival. At a certain point, you have to know when to cut the cord. That’s what my mother told me a long time ago, though I’m not sure how well she managed on her end :-). 

Cutting the cord is exactly what’s going on today with landlines. Though it was already foretold years and years ago, all the conditions are now (almost) in place for fixed telephony to join the telegraph in the realm of memory. Next on the chopping block? Its office pal, the desktop PC! 

telecommuting, coworking,  smartphones and 4G: a death sentence for fixed telephony 

The main reason for this is that the traditional office as a whole is on its way out. The classic desk/PC/landline triad is nothing more than an image from a bygone past: the real estate market has skyrocketed and commuting is a nightmare. As a result, telecommuting is becoming increasingly common as more and more coworking sites pop up. In France, 16.7% of workers now telecommute, while 7.9% of them use coworking spaces. 

Another reason is that landlines, well, all they can do is make calls. Of course you can do a few other little things with a landline: you can keep a (limited) list of contacts, you can have a little mobility with cordless phones (but don’t stray too far from the base), and even send text messages with select models or special services. 

But that’s nothing compared to the almost endless uses of a smartphone. When was the last time you used your landline to send a picture of your youngest to his grandma (what did I say about cutting the cord)? And in the same click shared it on your favorite social networks? Though we seldom use our smartphones to make calls, we still communicate a lot more with them. 

Finally, 4G arrived and took the rest of the wind from the landline’s sails. Unified communications services, whether targeted to the general public with Joyn or to business customers with Cisco Jabber or Lync Mobile, are now available on smartphones. Now it’s a cinch to share images and comment them live during conference or video calls. 

For several years, use of public switched telephone networks (PSTN) has consistently declined. Many operators, especially in the US, have announced their closure. On the other hand, mobile networks are constantly expanding. They now cover almost the entire globe and its population. 

so why are landlines still around?

One reason may be their role in managing identity and availability. It’s easier to call a home phone number instead of each family member’s mobile phone when you just need to reach someone in a family and it doesn’t matter who. 

Same thing at work: I’d rather give out my work number and save my mobile number for my boss, friends and family (isn’t that right, mom?). 

In spite of all this, fixed-mobile convergence solutions are mature and available as most of the drawbacks to fixed-mobile switching, especially in terms of cost, have disappeared. Status indicators and the option of chatting before calling have helped streamline communications: don’t you get tired of hearing your outgoing voicemail message?

Identity and security are also key issues for businesses. I mean, any passerby by can make a call from your office phone. 

Another reason is that the PSTN network is still used for some services such as fax and home security systems. Many people also use landlines as backup. But this logic is less and less relevant. Fax has been replaced by scanned documents, while security systems increasingly use mobile networks. This all spells the end of PSTN, since voice is now ToIP and backup can be provided by gateways that use mobile networks. 

The last reason: I like my landline, I don’t have to charge it, I don’t have to turn on a computer just to make a call, and the sound quality is better. All this was true before the days of mobile HD voice, wireless charging, charging docks, etc. But I’ll get to all that in my next post: my smartphone replaced my office phone.


PS: You can also read this blogpost in French here.

Image : © varandah -

Pierre-Yves Parmentier

J’ai eu l’opportunité de travailler sur les premiers projets collaboratifs en France il y a près de 20 ans, et pu participer à l'essor des outils de communication en entreprise. Je suis aujourd'hui chef de produit marketing au sein du département Communications Unifiées et Collaboration d'Orange Business.

Curieux de nature et passionné par l'innovation, j'essaye de comprendre les attentes des clients, de décrypter les tendances sociétales et d'explorer les nouvelles technologies pour proposer les offres de demain.