Landline Phone Celebrates 125th Anniversary


Some Americans are 'Cutting the Cord' and Going Completely Wireless

March 9, 2001


Saturday, March 10 will mark the 125th anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone call to his assistant Thomas Watson. Since that day, the telecommunications industry has continued to evolve and recently reached a milestone in the increasingly widespread use of wireless communications: the 100 millionth wireless customer signed up for service in late 2000 - a mere 17 years after wireless service was first made commercially available. By comparison, it took 91 years before the 100 millionth landline telephone customer got on the line.

Today, on the anniversary of the dawn of telecommunications, there are more than 180 million landline customers in the U.S. Closing in fast are more than110 million U.S. wireless users. More and more of those wireless users are "cutting the cord" and relying on the convenience and mobility of their wireless phones for voice communication.

While wireless phones aren't expected to replace traditional phone service anytime soon, the Yankee Group reports wireless phone use has already replaced more than 10 percent of landline voice usage. Andersen Consulting predicts that 25 percent of wireless users will be "all-wireless" over the next five to seven years.

Currently, wireless carriers find that business executives, college students, and young professionals are leading the way when it comes to this landline displacement. Those groups include individuals who travel frequently, move often or have roommates, or who tend to embrace new technologies more readily. For them, going wireless has many advantages.

Customers are cutting the cord for a variety of reasons:

  • Wireless' exploding popularity has caused airtime rates to drop nearly 40 percent industry-wide over the past four years, making wireless service more affordable than ever;
  • Recent mergers have created national like Verizon Wireless with nationwide networks and coast-to-coast calling. Those networks are constantly being upgraded and expanded;
  • Some wireless pricing options now include long distance and local rates that are competitive with traditional phone service. Plus, the national wireless providers are able to offer "flat rate" calling plans (such as Verizon Wireless' SingleRateSM plans) with no roaming or long distance charges coast to coast or across broad geographic areas;
  • Wireless companies are offering features and services such as mobile text messaging, two-way text messaging, and wireless Internet access which enhance the capabilities of phones ;
  • Customers can avoid needing new phone numbers when they relocate locally, and can simplify their bill paying with one bill for wireless service only; and
  • Included calling features similar to those found on home phones, such as caller ID, call waiting, and voice mail, are available on wireless phones as well.

    "As the industry grows, so do the quality and capabilities of wireless service, making the decision to go completely wireless easier than ever," said Tracy Nolan, president of Verizon Wireless' Upstate New York Region. "When people place a phone call they're trying to reach a person, not a location. Wireless phones that travel with you allow callers to reach you directly."
    More than 30 percent of wireless phone users recently surveyed by the Yankee Group said they would consider giving up their landline phones and switching to wireless for all of their communication needs.

    Telecommunications Timeline


    1876 -Alexander Graham Bell makes first phone call to assistant Thomas Watson and is issued patent for the invention of the telephone.

    1877 - First permanent outdoor telephone wire is installed, covering a distance of three miles. Commercial telephone service becomes available.

    1880's - Long distance service is available.

    1900 - The first coin telephone is installed in Hartford, Connecticut.

    1918 - Ten million telephones are in service.

    1927 - The "French" phone, with the transmitter and receiver in a single handset, is developed.

    1958 - All Number Calling (ANC) is instituted to handle consumer demands for individual telephone numbers.

    1967 -100 million households have telephone service. This milestone takes 91 years to reach.

    Wireless Timeline

    1969 - Commercial cellular radio is developed.

    1973 - Dr Martin Cooper, considered the inventor of the first portable handset, makes first wireless call.

    1983 - The first U.S. commercial cellular service is available in Chicago, Illinois.

    1990 - New digital cellular technology triples call capacity.

    2000 -100 million wireless subscribers in U.S.. This milestone takes 17 years to reach.