Tuesday, 03 September 2019 14:19

Landlines now a minority Featured

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The decline in the number of Australian households with a landline telephone connection has accelerated. For the first time, reputable statistics show that there are now more Australian homes without a landline than with one.

The latest Roy Morgan ‘State of the Nation – Media Report’ says that less than half Australia’s population have a home phone connected (48.6%). The data is based on Roy Morgan’s regular survey of Australian households, based on its ‘Single Source’ large and representative sample.

Data from government sources, such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Australian Bureau of Statistics still show a majority of households with a landline, but their figures are invariably a year to 18 months out of date. The Roy Morgan data is less accurate, but much more current.

The remarkable thing is that Roy Morgan reports that the number of households with landlines is down 9.5 percentage points from a year ago. That means that nearly a million households have ditched landlines just in the last 12 months (there are nearly 10 million households in Australia). The number had previously been declining comparatively slowly.

The report does not spell it out, but there is little doubt that the main reason for the accelerated decline is the increased penetration of the NBN. People with a with a landline that they may not have used much saw little reason to get rid of it, but when faced with the choice of an NBN service with or without a landline the decision became much easier. The NBN rollout is now nearly complete, and the last 12 months has seen more people connected than ever.

ACMA publishes an excellent report each year which shows how Australians use communications technology. The decline in landlines has been accompanied by the almost universal usage of smart phones in Australia, with over 95% of the adult population now owning one. Calls on mobile phones were once much more expensive, but that ceased to be the case some years ago.

ACMA data also shows that older people are much more likely to use landlines and younger people. In May 2018, the most recent period for which ACMA has published data, 79% of people aged 65 and over used landlines, while only 18% of those aged 25 to 34 did so. The proportion using mobiles only declined for every age group except those aged 18 to 24, where usage was a little higher than the group older than them. But many of these people are still living at home with their ageing parents.

There is little doubt that landline usage will continue to decline. In the modern world there is simply no reason to own one. The end of an era and all that.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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