You ready to drop your landline?

* Survey suggests families are more willing to replace wired phones with wireless service plan

A study carried out early this year found that nearly half of all U.S. households would switch from a primary "wired" service to a "family-share" wireless service plan that provides unlimited local calling, about 600 minutes of "anytime" use (including long-distance), for about $50 per month. This assumes that the entire house is covered by the wireless signal, as well as an assumption that the consumer had an alternative form of Internet access (such as cable broadband).

According to the recently released survey, which was conducted by PriMetrica and Ernst & Young, "Wireline telephone companies face a real competitive threat to their primary fixed line business and need to develop strategies to counter the threat." The survey was held in the first quarter of this year and 700 U.S. households were interviewed.

In addition to the 50% number cited above, the study found that between 29% and 44% of those surveyed would be willing to pay $60 per month for a wireless plan that offered 2,000 shared base minutes per month.

Respondents who said they would not be willing to drop their wired service cited the need for backup/security as a reason to stick with a wired phone line. If a wireless carrier can convince their customers that their wireless service is reliable and secure, it's possible that the numbers of customers abandoning wired service could increase.

One wireless carrier that wouldn't be surprised by these statistics is Leap Wireless, which recently crowed in a press release that 37% of its Cricket wireless service customers had dropped their wired service, compared to 26% in June 2002. The Leap Wireless survey polled about 3,000 customers across 40 different markets, Leap said.

Of those customers without a regular "wired" phone, 56% were between 18 and 34 years of age; 75% were single; and 51% lived in one- or two-person households. I guess that means that households with children are more likely to stick to a wired plan.

The Cricket service (available in 40 markets in 20 states) lets customers make unlimited calls in their service area for a flat rate. Long-distance costs 8 cents a minute in the U.S., and 18 cents per minute to Mexico or Canada. The Cricket Talk plan costs $39.99 per month for unlimited local calls, 500 minutes of U.S. long-distance and three extra features (caller ID, call waiting and three-way calling). Go to http://www.mycricket.com for more details.

For about a few years I've been wanting to get rid of my land "wired" service, but haven't been able to convince my wife just yet, as she likes the convenience of her cordless handset, which is larger and has a longer-lasting battery life than her cell phone.

A company I spoke with may soon change this attitude. Underwood Technologies is developing a "Home Cell Communications System" that lets users take their cell phones, plug it into a base station, and then use the wireless minutes at their home. The base station comes with handsets that look like a normal cordless phone, but include additional features that let a home user take advantage of cell phone features, such as e-mail, text messaging and address books. In addition to cell phones, the base station can accommodate a converged device, such as a RIM BlackBerry pager. The devices aren't yet on the market yet, for more information just send an e-mail to underwoodtec@aol.com

This leads me to this week's "feedback of the week" question - Have you dropped your landline phone service because of a good cell phone plan? Why or why not? If not, what is holding you back? Send responses to kshaw@nww.com. As always, we take the best comments and throw them in an upcoming newsletter.

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