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Going mobile

Debating the wisdom of dumping the business landline for a cell phone

Home Base By Steve Ulfelder, Network World
September 06, 2004 12:09 AM ET
Steve Ulfelder

Network World - I believe I’m going to ditch my hard-wired business-only telephone line, go all-cellular, and save a bunch of dough. Unless faxes are very important in your business (and possibly even if they are), you should consider doing the same.

For more than a year now, I’ve been reading articles about consumers dumping their landlines in favor of mobile phones. A February study from In-Stat/MDR found that 14.4% of U.S. consumers have gone cellular-only, and that percentage will more than double by 2008. This trend is especially prevalent among young adults who move frequently. But I haven’t heard or read much about small business owners following suit.

But both my wife and I recently upgraded our mobile-phone plans and hardware. While that’s an annual chore for many, it was a big deal to us - we hang on to our phones until they cause people to point and laugh in public. My friends said my old phone looked like a prop from Miami Vice.

I was astonished at both the sound quality of today’s phones and the low cost of the plans. My carrier charges less than $50 per month for a bazillion work-hour minutes, voice mail, no long-distance fees and no roaming charges; all the major carriers have similar plans.

This got me thinking about ditching the hard-wired office phone. My cell phone was under-used. I need one, of course, so that $50-a-month fee is a given - but the mobile phone sits in my car while I do business over the land line. Between local and long-distance service charges, that landline costs me just over $76 per month, or $912 a year.

Modern digital cell-phones generally offer outstanding sound quality, although that may not be the case in all areas. And for $19.95, I got an excellent ear bud/microphone that leaves my hands free to type notes while I conduct interviews.

One of the remaining arguments in favor of the landline is the fact that it's hooked up to a fax machine. I'll estimate that I receive five faxes a year and send five. Think back to the $912 per year I spend on the office phone - I'm paying More than $90 a fax. Seems a bit steep.

However, I do concede that it's nice to have a fax machine around. Here's my solution: I will hook the fax to the home telephone line and use it as a last resort only. I will need to receive faxes manually, but that's what I've been doing all along anyway.

You might ask why I don't keep the office landline and ditch the one we use in our home, as so many consumers have. Just old-fashioned, I guess. It's a nice feeling to have one plain-vanilla phone in the house that works during power failures and can’t be affected by some sort of cell-tower disaster. I suppose I'm part of the last generation that will feel this way about phone equipment.

So there you have it - almost. Before I pull the trigger, I want to hear from you. Have you gone all-cellular in your home-based business? Is it a good idea? Are there risks I haven’t factored in? Tell me about your experience - I promise to report back.

Read more about wireless/mobile in Network World's Wireless/Mobile section.

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