As cellular phones and wireless services have become not just popular, but essential, and technology has allowed people more freedom of communication than ever, the need for landlines has shrunk dramatically. As the economy worsens and consumers look for ways to save money, landlines at home are high on the list of things to get rid of. Millions of people cancel their home landlines every year. Why wouldn’t they when their cell phones not only allow them to make phone calls, but text, and even surf the Internet? No one wants to pay two phone bills, particularly for one they seldom use. You might think the wireless industry would see this as an opportunity to further encourage customers to cut the cord. Instead, the major wireless brands are encouraging consumers to return to the landline by releasing home phones that are much more than phones. Verizon has led the pack with their Hub phone. Not only can you make calls, you can send and receive text messages, watch streaming video, check traffic conditions, buy movie tickets, manage a calendar, and even keep tabs on your kids. When the phone isn’t in use, it doubles (triples? quadruples?) as a digital picture frame. This all sounds fantastic, but there is one major drawback—some of the features, specifically, text and photo messaging, only work with other Verizon phones. Since Verizon still trails AT&T as the second largest wireless provider in the country, and with Sprint and T-Mobile hot on their heels, it’s really still a crapshoot whether the people you communicate with most are going to use the same service you do. Now it looks like T-Mobile will be the next major provider to join in. The company has enjoyed moderate success with its G1 cell phone, which uses Google Android technology. Now a spokesman says T-Mobile has plans to expand into the home with more Android-based devices. Although the company won’t confirm exactly what they might come out with, rumors abound that the first two products in the works are a home phone, presumably similar to Verizon’s Hub, and a tablet computer. Because Android competes with Apple and Microsoft products, it will be interesting to see how the big two react. Could we soon have a countertop version of the iPhone, complete with touchscreen? The real question, though, is why? Why would wireless providers want to resurrect a business that was not quite dead yet, but well on its way? Why not just spend the time, money, and energy on further advancing wireless technologies? Well, the easiest answer is money. Think about it. If everyone were to get rid of their landlines, wireless rates would have to drop even more than they already have. The demand would have increased, yes, but so would the supply. The more of something there is available, the less expensive it is. Wireless carriers could potentially lose a lot of money if landlines completely went away. But if Verizon, T-Mobile, or any other company can convince you to keep your cell phones, and set up an expanded and more functional landline at home, even if wireless rates were to drop further, they could make up the profit loss with landline plans and hardware sales. What do you think? Do you really need a phone at home anymore when wireless phones are becoming more and more like hand-held computers?
Can Wireless Providers Save the Landline?
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