Internet access is now an essential, but the landline isn't anymore

Internet access is now an essential, but the landline isn't anymore

Summary: We could not live without our mobile phones and texting, according to Ofcom's latest survey of consumer habits.


We may have a love-hate relationship with technology but the one thing for certain it seems is a belief that we cannot survive without it.

Ofcom survey of consumers' technology buying habits shows just how infatuated with technology we have become. Texting is one of the key functions of a mobile phone but just how important it is to you personally depends on different factors such as age.

Some 70 per cent of young people, aged between 16 and 24, consider being able to use their mobiles for texting as an essential. This falls to a mere six percent of over 75s while the UK average is 45 percent.

Internet access from a smartphone was deemed an essential by half of young people, a quarter of the general population, and no-one over 75. Internet access from a fixed connection was seen as essential by 40 percent of people.

Using the mobile phone for calls is the next most popular use with 60 per cent of the 16-24 age group and 17 per cent of the over 75s. The UK average is 46 percent.

If using a mobile to call and text are the habits of the young then a reliance on the old-fashioned landline is the purview of the elderly — 61 percent of the 75+ age group consider voice calls from a landline to be an essential but only 12 percent of the young.

With only 29 percent of the total seeing a landline as essential, the days of the landline are numbered. And only two percent of young people (and only nine percent of the 75+ age group) thought the phone book (remember them?) was an essential.

Happily for Ofcom, the majority of the people in the survey said they found communications services affordable. Only a minority (14 percent) said that have had difficulties paying for communications services, but three quarters (74 percent) said they had to be careful about spending while managing their communications costs.

Just under half (45 per cent) said that they have cut back on luxuries while around a third (36 per cent) said they opted for cheaper goods or services.

The full study can be viewed here.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Government UK, Mobile OS


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • I'm a straddler

    I'm in the middle. I have a "landline" cordless phone but it's an Internet VOIP service. The smartphones are just not very comfortable to talk on for any length of time, and they tend to get hot. As far as traditional landline, I don't even have copper connected to the house anymore. Verizon removed it when they brought in the fiber.
    Buster Friendly
    • best thing you can do is

      Unplug your battery when the power is off to preserve your backup until its needed. Once you plug in it will take a minute to connect then your phone will work. If the battery dies you will have no phone.
      • Not too worried about that

        I'm not too worried about that. I do have a cell phone too. The larger cordless handset is just more comfortable and the service costs almost nothing.
        Buster Friendly
        • Landline.? Are they still around?

          They are not even needed in the most remote countries! Voip covers any land line need.

          Power outage? UPS and solar do a great job.

          Internet access is far more useful and required than a phone.
          • remote countries are implementing first ever services

            No? there's no concept of calling 911 is there?

            Suffice it to say, its a whole other country out there. Remote countries are not downgrading service level with new technology as is happening elsewhere.
  • some work needs to be done for emergency services

    The old POTS phone system worked even when the power was out so you could call fire dept, ambulance, or police etc. In emergency.

    When the power is out the network is DOWN. Mine actually will stay up on battery power for a few hours but have already had multiple instances where the battery didn't last for the duration.

    In Hurricane Sandy the cell towers were out as well so you had no power and no cell. Frankly most old phone lines were down also but not all. Regardless emergency service needs updating for the modern world or the modern world needs to better include emergency service in its plan.

    There are some but its spotty and not at all universal. Much remains to be done and in the meantime... people will be vulnerable and left without...
    • people will be vulnerable and left without...

      You mean like they have been for 98% of the world's history?

      In an emergency as you describe, just "getting" to someone on the other end will have little to no effect anyway. You think the Emergency Responders hire a bunch of extra people to just sit around and wait for your phone call?
      • no, as opposed to how it worked with a traditional landline

        Don't be that guy...

        Simple power outages are not uncommon but you are very likely to be cutoff if your relying on internet service. Even cellular emergency service is spotty at best.
        • Have to agree it is a pain.

          When my skype get cut off due to servers playing up at Interner Providers, Im left completly stuck unless I have a mobile phone as a back up (I dont even use that for much, so I am amazed it hasnt been cut off yet by Vodaphone, like in the old days of low usage).

          As for landline. I dont use one unless my Skype and Mobile is out of credit and even then only emergency calls to my landlord. Its his phoneline on a shared house network. I have an old phone I can plug in to use it.
          Mi Pen
  • Early in the days of DSL from Phone company (probably 12 or more years ago)

    AT&T made the choice to not allow DSL to be hooked up to a home/apartment/etc... unless you kept Phone functionality (instead of allow users to just migrate to using Cell Phone only and saving some money). Bandwidth was not that great, but compare with Dial-Up and ISDN, it would have been great. However, since they forced users to keep the phone AND to add the DSL, many users just opted to go with HighSpeed Digital over their cable (something that was fairly new at the time). Cell phones were out, so people like me (Bachelor at the time) could have cut the cord then and stayed with their phone company for something. Once people figured out that Cable was better in general for High Speed data they never looked back. Inflexibility on the part of phone company may have cost them much of their business.
    • Landline just for DSL is available,

      and has been for years from at least one landline company (and, I assume, its competitors). The company has to install a line, with a phone number for billing, but no phone service, for a lower monthly fee than a line with both POTS (plain old telephone service) and DSL. However, there would be complications in supporting both installation and troubleshooting of subsequent outages. For one thing, if the customer only has VOIP phone service (a typical reason for dropping POTS), and the internet service goes down, the customer cannot call for support. Or if troubleshooting of a non-fatal problem requires shutting down the computer during the support call, the support technician has to call the customer back after restart, or preferably, call back on an alternate phone. The phone company, therefore, advised customers that they needed an alternate phone service, such as a cell phone, to follow the support tech's instructions, or else be aware that a technician may have to visit, for a fee (called a "truck roll"), which COULD have been avoided had the customer been calling on a land line.

      So if you do not want a POTS land line, you need SOME form of telephone that does not rely on the internet connection (of any kind) that may need troubleshooting.

      The mention of emergency services brings up two advantages of landlines: first, because a subscriber phone is physically connected to a specific wire pair at the exchange, a system that knows the phone number automatically knows the address, so emergency services can respond to that address even if the caller does not know it, or cannot give it orally; and second, because the provision of landline service includes the 48 volt DC power needed to make a phone work, so that, unless the phone service itself is out, a subscriber using a passively wired phone needs no additional power.
  • "We could not live without our mobile phones and texting..."

    Don't bet on it Ace.

    I don't text...and don't allow any of my 3 phones to receive texts. I have no use for it whatsoever.

    Don't use any of the social networking crap like Farcebook either.
    • IT_Fella

      Well, there you go then! Ok everyone, listen up. IT_Fella doesn't live in this century so nobody else should either. After all, seems to be the self-proclaimed genius of our time so if he's not doing something, nobody else should or you're all just being stupid.

      Sheesh, the arrogance around here is think enough to cut with a knife.
      • @ccs9623

        So just where does @IT_Fella say no one else shouldn't text?

        I do not text either. So what's your problem with someone expressing an opinion?

        It was the author who made the blanket statement that "We could not live without our mobile phones and texting". Making blanket statements is always a stupid thing to do.

        YOU seem to be " the self-proclaimed genius of our time" here making statements like "Ok everyone, listen up. IT_Fella doesn't live in this century so nobody else should either."

        Back under your bridge numb-nuts.
        • ItsNot

          You obviously don't have a grasp of the English language so please, leave the real discussion to us adults here.

          Thank you.
          • you demonstrate no such characteristic.

          • LOL

            Another rocket scientist who goes into a battle of wits unarmed.

            How old are you anyway? 12?
          • "US" adults?

            From what I have seen of your behavior in here, I am not so sure you qualify in that category either. I don't necessarily agree with others here, but I don't see any need to go off acting like complete a$$ about it. Spare us all your "us adults" conversation, as we know it is just another troll popping up to stir up conflict. There is enough of that already.
  • I still have my land line

    I get 12 Mbps DSL and still use the FAX machine, as doctors and insurance and HR still use FAX.
    • My parents have a phone line, as there is no cable

      out where they live. CenturyLink actually has DSL service out there too.