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Lament of the Landline

Unfortunately HSDPA in its present state isn’t quite ready to kill off ADSL over copper, even with T-Mobile’s 2GB download limit for £19.99 per month. For a mobile Internet solution 2GB is practically limitless, but for a home connection, many users, myself included, would find it too restrictive to consider as an alternative to ADSL or cable. Add to that the fact that T-Mobile doesn’t allow VoIP or instant messaging over HSDPA and it becomes even more apparent that you won’t be giving up that BT line just yet.

It’s also worth remembering that although 1.8Mbit/sec is incredibly fast for a mobile solution, home ADSL speeds are now running above 20Mbit/sec with some ISPs. That said, HSDPA should rise to 3.6Mbit/sec by the beginning of 2007 and reach 7.2Mbit/sec by the end of the same year. So, as speeds increase and tariffs improve, could HSDPA do for data what mobile phones did for voice?

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I think there’s a strong possibility that with affordable tariffs and no usage restrictions HSDPA could be the answer for a lot of consumers, giving them the chance to finally ditch that landline along with the associated line rental. But it’s not just these new data cards that BT has to worry about, there’s also WiMAX.

Assuming that WiMAX comes to fruition in the near future, you’ll have the option to receive your broadband wirelessly, and when I say broadband, I mean considerably faster than even the swiftest ADSL service offered today. If WiMAX rolls out, the need to have a landline at home suddenly disappears for a significant amount of consumers. Why pay for line rental and broadband when you can just pay for wireless broadband and cut out the middle man?

So, BT must be terrified of losing its staple business right? To be honest, I doubt it. I imagine that there are whole departments of people who have been considering this exact scenario, and whom already have multiple plans in motion to ensure continued profitability for BT even if the bottom does fall out of landlines. After all, Bob Hoskins may still think that it’s good to talk, but BT’s marketing machine has moved on from voice calling. Almost all the BT advertising campaigns centre on Internet based services, and if voice calls are mentioned it’s VoIP related.

Ultimately I think we’re nearing the end of an era. Just like the demise of the telephone box from our street, I think the demise of the home landline isn’t too far off. The lure of cheap mobile tariffs and the rollout of faster and cheaper wireless broadband solutions will eventually kill the old beast off.

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