Cells Take Over Nearly All Age Groups

November 24, 2004
Print
Text Size:
A A
LANSING — If the cell-phone guy in the TV commercial were to ask everyone in the country, “Can you hear me now?” more than 159 million people would answer, “Yes.”

According to 2003 data from the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, that is the number of cell phone users in the nation, about 55 percent of the nation’s population and is almost 30 million more than the number of tax returns filed with the federal government last year.

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that cell phone ownership among those aged 60 to 69 was at 60 percent — almost as high as for 18- to 24-year-olds at 66 percent.

Pew also found that even among those 80 and older, cell phone use reached 32 percent. The kings of cell phone use, though, are between the ages of 30 to 49 years. Pew reported that 76 percent were users.

And no matter what their age, they’re all talking — a lot.

CTIA estimated that cell phone conversations totaled 830 billion minutes last year, almost 50 hours for every U.S. resident and 75 times more minutes than were dialed in 1991.

Although the state doesn’t track the number of cell phones in use, Ronald Choura, of the technology division of the Michigan Public Service Commission, told the Business Journal that cell-phone ownership in a state falls in line with a state’s population in relation to the nation’s population.

Because Michigan has about 3.5 percent of the country’s people, then roughly 5.6 million of all the cell phones out there are being used in the state.

But it wasn’t that long ago that phone companies were rapidly running out of numbers for landline service.

Remember the battle that was waged just a few years ago to keep KentCounty in the 616 area code?

Well, times have changed.

In May, the PSC issued its report on telecommunications competition in the state. The survey found 6.3 million phone lines in Michigan last year, with nearly 1.4 million in Grand Rapids. That may sound like a lot of landlines, but the number is actually smaller than it was two years ago.

There were 6.7 million phone lines in 1999, 6.9 million in 2000, and 7 million in 2001.

But a decline began in 2002 when the total number of phone lines fell back to 6.7 million and fell further a year later to 6.3 million last year — a 10 percent drop in just 24 months.

With the number of cell phone users expected to grow even more, the number of landline customers is likely to continue to drop.

Many currently use both, but with more consumers choosing cell packages that include a long-distance service provider, active landlines are likely to drop below 6 million in Michigan fairly soon.

Cell phones, though, aren’t the only reason landline service will become less popular over time.

“The other factor that may affect the use of landlines is VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol,” said PSC Commission Robert Nelson.

“If you have a large number of customers using their cable modem or DSL line to make local phone calls, then you’ll have less and less traffic on the traditional network.”

And less traffic will likely result in higher rates for fewer landline customers.

“We are concerned about that because we think people that will still use a landline — and there will always be some — are probably the people that can least afford to do so. Some of the inner-city people, some of the senior citizens … will never give up their old phone and that is a concern,” said Nelson, who added that there are fewer pay phones in the state now than a decade ago, another change that directly affects low-income residents.

Nelson has seen projections that call for a steady drop in landline subscribers over the next few decades, as wireless and VoIP services pick up steam and customers.

But no matter how far that number drops, landlines are unlikely to vanish completely because they have proven to be vital in emergency situations.

When terrorists attacked the WorldTradeCenter in New York, nearby cell-phone towers collapsed and those calls couldn’t be completed.

“There were some landline phones working because these have an existing battery system that takes over when the power goes out and is good for 36 hours, as I understand it,” said Nelson.

“In a lot of areas around the WorldTradeCenter, the landline phones still were working.”    

Recent Articles by David Czurak

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus