A little more than one-third of island business and residential consumers have done away with their landline service in the last decade. While the reasons may be more than a few, saving money by opting out of traditional phone service and the practicality of mobility are likely highly responsible for fixed lines going down the same path as rotary phones.
Data compiled by the Telecommunications Regulatory Board shows that while landline usage has dropped by 35 percent, wireless subscriber levels have jumped a whopping 112 percent in the period between December 2000 and December 2010.
The numbers show that in December 2000, the estimated 2.7 million total lines in service were split almost evenly between fixed and wireless. However, 10 years later, the results are starkly different with nearly 892,000 fixed and 2.9 million wireless lines in service.
With traditional landline telephone currently representing a mere 23 percent of the island’s voice communications market, it is very probable that an increasing number of consumers have — for financial or practical reasons — replaced their home phones with their wireless handsets.
On average, consumers pay about $60 a month for wireless service and about $40 for landline, unless it is bundled with other services such as Internet and television.
Local trends parallel to U.S. mainland
The trends reflected locally ring similar to what is happening on the U.S. mainland, where during the first half of 2010, more than one in four households, or 26.6 percent, had only wireless phones.
The statistic included in a survey released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention represented an astounding eightfold increase in the use of wireless technology over landline service in the last six years.
“The prevalence of such ‘wireless-only’ households now markedly exceeds the prevalence of households with only landline telephones (12.9 percent), and this difference is expected to grow,” the CDC study showed. Public and private agencies have historically relied on telephone surveys, which so far have not included wireless telephone numbers, to collect data.
The CDC study further showed that Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas lead the ranking of wireless-only household states, while the typically wealthier Northeastern states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island still keep both forms of communication.
Pre-paid option booms, payphones near extinction
In the last five years, as the island’s economic conditions have taken a prolonged turn for the worse, it is unsurprising that the TRB’s findings show a steady growth in the pre-paid wireless segment. The pay-as-you-go option has increased by 136 percent, to 655,309 in December 2010, from 277,305 in December 2000.
Furthermore, as of February, nearly 692,000 money-conscious wireless consumers were controlling their monthly expense through pre-paid service. The growing trend has prompted wireless carriers to improve their commitment-free handset options, some going so far as to include smartphones in that portfolio.
Meanwhile, the once-pervasive public telephone is now on the verge of extinction, with less than 700 remaining on the island, the TRB data showed. A decade ago, there were more than 25,000 in service, most of which have also fallen victim to the wireless boom.