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20% of U.S. households shun landlines, go mobile-only

Just over 20 percent of all U.S. households have dropped landlines in favor of using cell phones exclusively for voice communication, according to recent survey results from the National Center for Health Statistics.
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Written by Andrew Nusca on

Just over 20 percent of all U.S. households have dropped landlines in favor of using cell phones exclusively for voice communication, according to recent survey results from the National Center for Health Statistics.

That number is up from more than 17 percent from the previous survey six months ago. For the first time since the NCHS has been keeping track of wireless phone use, this number exceeds the percentage of households that rely on only landline phones.

The NCHS collects this data as part of its twice-yearly National Health Interview Survey. Because phone numbers are collected during the interviews for follow-up questions, NCHS began asking questions about wireless phone use in 2003 to account for a growing number of mobile-only households.

Almost 60 percent of households use both wireless and landline phone service, but one in seven households receive all or most calls via cellphone, according to the survey.

According to Ars Technica, AT&T, for example, has noted that landline customers were decreasing significantly as early as last year; in its most recent quarter, the company got less than 30 percent of its revenue from wired voice customers, and more than 40 percent from wireless customers. Similarly, Verizon saw landline subscribers decrease by 4 million, while wireless subscribers increased by 20 million.

Stephen Blumberg, senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and one of the authors of the report, told the Associated Press that the recession may be accelerating the trend.

"We do expect that with the recession, we'd see an increase in the prevalence of wireless only households, above what we might have expected had there been no recession," Blumberg said.

Survey results also indicate the following:

  • More than one-third of young people aged 18-29 are wireless-only.
  • More than 60 percent of adults that share a house or apartment with roommates, nearly 40 percent of all renters, and 25 percent of Hispanics are wireless-only.
  • Generally, large percentages of groups that could be associated with lower incomes live in wireless-only households.

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