Landlines: Plotting the death of the home phone

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T-Mobile suffered a major outage across the US late on Monday, at its peak receiving more than 80,000 reports on DownDetector, with many customers unable to send texts, place calls or use their data.

For many of us, our phones have become so vital — arguably too vital — to the daily workings of our life that outages like T-Mobile’s can be frustratingly restrictive.

Cord cutting

That’s become particularly true as cell phones are slowly killing off the landline. Indeed, as recently as 2014, if a cellular provider suffered an outage, the majority of households would still have had a landline to rely on. Today, however, when 70% only have cell phones and the number of households with a landline has fallen to 29%, the same scenario causes much wider disruption.

For those unhappy with their cell coverage, the options are increasingly limited. The industry has consolidated significantly, and is now dominated by only a handful of major companies. In fact, after the $26bn deal that saw T-Mobile merge with Sprint in 2020, the industry has effectively been whittled down to just 3 major players. T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T now take 24%, 30%, and 45% share of the market each, respectively.

Unfortunately for landline manufacturers, they haven’t yet caught the nostalgia wave that’s propelled the revival of vinyl, polaroids and cassettes. Maybe Gen Z will one day find a soft spot for dialing on a rotary phone.

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