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Why UK landlines are refusing to become obsolete

Do you have a landline in your house? With Ofcom reporting that there are 82.7 million mobile subscriptions in the UK, it seems increasingly unlikely that an old fashioned telephone will have pride of place in your hallway. However, there are in fact 24.4 million home landlines across Britain. Surprised?

These latest figures raise questions about what's still attracting people in the UK to landlines, and preventing them from relying solely on mobile phones. Is it merely the older generations hanging onto tradition? Or are there other benefits to not making the switch? We consider why the landline is refusing to become obsolete.

Landlines vs. Mobiles

'The Slow Death of Landline Phones', 'End of the Line' – These are just a few of the headlines that have greeted us in the past few years, announcing the death march of the landline telephone. In today's fast paced world, where one technology is regularly replaced by another, these portents of doom come as no real surprise.

The problem is that there are so many ways we can now keep in touch, that sticking with one for more than five minutes feels impossible. From Snapchat to Facebook, and texting to calling on the go, it's no wonder that some of us have lost sight of just how simple communication can be.

However, when you look at the actual figures, the decline of the landline in the UK is nowhere near as marked as headlines would suggest, with only 15% of homes being mobile-only. In comparison to US figures, which suggest that nearly a quarter of homes have ditched the landline, Britain seems to have a soft spot for old-fashioned communication.

So what is it about the landline that's keeping the majority of us holding on?


Photo By: Aaron Williamson

The Romance of the Landline

There's a certain romance attached to the landline that us Brits seem to love. From the romantic tension of It's a Wonderful Life, when George Bailey and Mary passionately kiss after a shared phone conversation, to the late night calls in When Harry Met Sally, landlines have been an integral part of movie love stories since the Golden Age of Hollywood.

There's also a certain mystery to the landline, which predominantly comes from not knowing who is on the other end – something that many of us are no longer used to. Horror movies such as Scream have played on this, utilising the phone's ability to present the audience with a menacing voice from an unseen threat, or stranding the heroine in an isolated house with all the phone lines cut. Even Bridget Jone's obsessive checking of her answer machine in the hope of hearing a message from Mr Darcy, effectively captures the tension landlines can add to a story.

Benefits of Home Landlines


Aside from the affection garnered for the landline in Hollywood blockbusters, there are a number of benefits to not switching entirely to mobile:

  • The landline won't move – This may sound silly but a corded phone can actually make your life easier. Every time it rings, you know where it is. No more digging under cushions in a desperate frenzy to find it.
  • It's Easier to Stay in Touch – People regularly change mobile numbers, but a lot of people keep the same landline number for a long time. This means that if you do lose contact with someone, they should still be able to track you down using your landline number.
  • It's More Reliable – If you sit down for a lengthy chat on a landline, you don’t have to worry about running out of minutes and battery or losing signal.
  • Talk Even When the Powers Out – If you have a traditional corded phone, you'll be able to use it even when there's a power cut. Phone companies have an emergency back-up system that powers the phone jacks, so that you can still ring friends, family or 999 if you need to.
  • Greater Privacy – Some cellular phones use radio frequencies which can easily be intercepted, making giving out personal information or bank details risky. If you have to provide this information, landlines are a safer option.
  • They Can Be Customised – If you're put off by the idea that you won't be able to see who's calling, don't worry – lots of modern landlines allow you to add caller id or distinctive ringtones.
  • Make a Style Statement – Your landline doesn’t just have to be functional, but can double as home décor or act as the centrepiece in a room. From retro styles to modern designs your phone really can make an impact.

There have been numerous headlines in recent years which suggest that UK landlines are experiencing a cataclysmic demise. However, if you look at the figures this is arguably not the case, particularly when compared to other nations such as America. Whether it's the romantic allure that Hollywood has given the landline or the benefits associated with keeping one, or perhaps a little bit of both, the landline is refusing to become obsolete.

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