Wireless Phones Surpass Landlines in the United States

June 1, 2017

[brian a. jackson]
[brian a. jackson]

For the first time, a majority of American homes have only wireless telephones, Fortune magazine reported on May 4. The trend has been building for the past decade, as consumers have canceled landline phone service and opted for mobile phones instead, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which conducts surveys to monitor how people can be contacted for future surveys.

By the end of 2016, 50.8 percent of U.S. households were relying solely on mobile phone service, up from 48.3 percent a year earlier. Released May 4, the CDC survey of nearly 20,000 households found that 39.4 percent had both types of service, while 6.5 percent had only landlines and 3.2 percent had no phone service of any kind.

For major telecommunications providers like AT&T and Verizon, revenue from landline phones has been plunging as wireless revenue has soared, but that growth is also slowing as mobile phone lines now outnumber the country’s population. Consumers may be dropping landline service to save money. In the CDC study, 66 percent of adults living in poverty were relying solely on cellphone service. Among higher-income adults, that number dropped to 49 percent. Cable TV users are “cord cutting,” which refers to when consumers replace a wired product with a wireless alternative. More people are also turning to video-streaming services, in some cases on their cellphones. A small but growing number of consumers are discontinuing landline internet service to rely solely on mobile connections, the CDC found.  — Greg Beaubien


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