The End of the Spam Line: 45.4% in US Are Mobile Only or Mostly Mobile

I was recently speaking with a friend who said that he and his wife had eliminated their landline. I was surprised because this friend is successful and it's not a financial issue. Cost is often cited among younger people who've jettisoned their landlines.

"We were tired of getting all these telemarketing calls," he told me. In other words, his landline had become a "spam line." 

That's also the case for me and probably most of the people reading this. Our mobile numbers are for the people we need and want to talk to, landlines are for spam and others we don't really care about. Most of the calls we receive at home are telemarketers or fundraising calls in one form or another.  

I looked up the latest CDC statistics (.pdf) on mobile only households and found that just under 30% (29.7%) of American households are mobile only and have no landline. According to the data, "nearly one of every six American homes (15.7%) received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones." Accordingly 45.4% of US homes are mostly mobile or mobile exclusively. 

This is staggering in a way. Just under half of American households are without a landline or simply ignore their landlines. For that 16% who basically ignore their landlines it's only a matter of time before they cancel. This was my friend's situation; he had considered canceling his landline for a couple of years before he actually did it.

It's worth pointing out these data are from 2010. These numbers are likely to be higher now. They're positively correlated, I would imagine, with smartphone adoption as well. 

There are all sorts of implications of these figures, for telemarketing (no robodialing allowed) and political polling (no longer representative if landline centric) -- to name just two areas. 

There are some countervailing forces that may slow the abandonment of landlines. Among them the carrier move toward tiered data plans; calls will be part of data relatively soon. People using only their mobile phones to talk could be subject to overages accordingly. In addition, businesses will retain landlines in many cases. Some bundling of landlines with other serivces (e.g., cable "triple play") will also retain landlines for some. However they will be increasingly ignored. 

Regardless, the next tranche of CDC data will likely show that mostly mobile and mobile only homes have crossed the 50% threshold in the US.