Cellphone only: Half have cut the landline

WASHINGTON — The cellphone is rapidly replacing the home phone, and for the first time, more than half of Americans say they no longer have a landline, although households in Washington have been a little slower to give up that traditional phone.

Research firm GfK MRI says 52 percent of U.S. adults live in households with cellphones but no landline telephones, double what it was in 2010.

“I think what people may be finding is that they were nervous about not having a landline because historically they’ve always had it, but as they continue to use cellphones for so many different things, they’re very efficient. Risa Becker, senior vice president of research operations at GfK tells WTOP.

“People are sometimes using their cellphones in their homes to make phone calls even when they have a landline, so people are more and more realizing they don’t need the landline expense.”

While younger Americans are more likely to be landline free — 71 percent of millennials are — older Americans are rapidly abandoning the extra expense.

GfK says the proportion of senior citizens ages 65 and older in cellphone-only households has quadrupled over the past six years to 23 percent.

It says 55 percent of Gen X-ers are cell-only households now, and 40 percent of Baby Boomers are.

Interestingly, households in the Northeast are less likely to be landline free.

“The Northeast’s lower incidence of cell-only households is likely related to its high levels of bundled
television, internet, landline and cellphone services,” Becker says.

That translates to the Washington market. Its research says 42 percent of Washington area households are landline free, compared to a national average of 52 percent.

“In other regions, we see a stronger trend toward cutting the telephone cord,” she says.

About 57 percent of households in the Northeast have bundled data services, compared to 49 percent in the South and even less elsewhere.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that spelling of Risa Becker’s name.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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