By the end of 2016, over 3.2 billion people around the world were connected to the internet in some way or another. In more developing countries, mobile connections lead the markets, while elsewhere a combination of mobile and broadband connections cover pretty much anywhere we go. With the growth of smartphones and other connected devices came the growth of communication based apps like Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber, and while these sorts of apps have been used alongside the more antiquated ‘fixed line calling’ for the last 10 years, slowly we are seeing more and more people rely on these apps for all of their communication. Infact some reports point to the fact that 95% of millennials admit they don’t use their home phone line for calls at all. A recent Express article goes even further, by saying that 51% of people quizzed don’t even answer their home phone when it rings, as they expect it to be a nuisance or sales call. With numbers like that, it could lead you to wonder if the days of telephone lines are numbered, but rather than the internet age being the death knell of the fixed landline, it could just signal a change of tactics.
The Changing Landscape of ADSL
While actual fixed line telephone calls are on the decline, internet use is exponentially expanding in every area of the world, and even though mobile connections are perfectly fine for personal and some small business uses, a fixed broadband line is still needed for anyone relying on video streaming, multiple users, and even low latency VOIP calls. Having a broadband line in a lot of countries such as the UK, also means paying for a telephone line too, as both come hand in hand when you buy your entertainment package, often including a TV set-top box as well. Cable providers such as Virgin Media, who don’t actually need to add a telephone line to your property, will actually charge you less for including one in your package, in a vague attempt at making you use it out of sheer convenience.
A quick look at Virgin’s website shows that they really want you to use that phone. They use the same tactic as cheap airlines, where they will lure you in with an eye-catching cheap base rate, but hope to regain profits with the extra’s, such as prime time calls (the land line equivalent of an $8 bag of peanuts on your ‘cheap’ flight). The same goes for other providers such as SKY, PlusNet, and TalkTalk, so whether you provider is a cable company, or an LLU based provider, you will still be coerced into getting a phone line with your broadband, or you will be required to have an active telephone line already. While this is standard in the UK, there are some countries that have seen the shift in customer use cases, and have evolved their services to provide what their customers want and need. An example of this is Trustpower, a broadband provider from New Zealand.
Trustpower give you the option of having ADSL broadband with a telephone line, or without; a service they are calling “naked broadband”. Naked broadband is a reference to the line being repurposed for internet use, and nothing else. With the decline in fixed line telephone usage, this sort of broadband deal is something that will only become more and more popular in the coming years; and it’s a move that makes sense.
Whereas in the past we would have our telephone line dealing with our calls, our TV shows delivered over an analogue aerial, and our internet over a separate cable, the homes and businesses of the future are commonly thought to need only one ‘pipe’ entering the property to deliver all your needs. The popularity of Netflix and Amazon Prime TV have forced other domestic TV services to create apps, and allow viewers to stream content to whatever device they like, a system that is especially popular with millennials and younger generations.
The Rise of the VOIP App
The usage habits of the consumer are not only changing in the entertainment industry, but also in the communications sphere. While Skype was king of the online messaging platform for around a decade, the likes of Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Snapchat, and Viber have all carved out a niche for themselves while taking a further slice of the pie away from conventional landlines. When you have a good internet connection, a Whatsapp or Viber call can sound on-par, if not better than standard landline phone calls, and to compound the matter, most mobile phone tariffs now come with more ‘free minutes’ than you can shake a stick at. If any of this sounds familiar to you, naked broadband could very well be the only sensible option, especially when it is cheaper than it’s more popular ‘telephone enabled’ sibling.
It makes sense for the telephone line to stick around, after all most houses are already connected this way, and re-purposing them for the modern world is going to give these lines a new lease of life, while saving the consumer money on a service they don’t use. There are also areas that telecoms companies refuse to provide fibre broadband for (generally rural areas), and in these cases naked broadband through a copper wire line is your only option if you wish to save money on your telephone bill. Speeds are obviously dependant on how far you live from your local telephone exchange, and while they may not compare favourably to the speeds of fibre-to-the-home, they are usually fine for the average family, and in some areas may be the only option. If you find yourself rarely using your home telephone line for anything other than the internet, it could be worth a look when renewing your broadband package, as nobody likes paying for a service they don’t use. While Trustpower and their ilk are a rarity at the moment, expect to see many more similar options popping up from competitors once they cotton on to the fact younger generations are more than happy with one pipe for all their telephone, TV, and broadband needs.