More households cancelling fixed-line phones, survey finds

Similar trend forming in Israel that could eventually cause significant damage to Bezeq.

More and more Americans are giving up their land-line telephones in favor of cellphones, according to a survey published by Forrester Research, with a similar trend forming in Israel that could eventually cause significant damage to Bezeq. Last year, six million, or eight percent of US households with cellphones, had disconnected from fixed-line phones completely, compared with 5% the year before and 4% in 2003, the survey said. Among the reasons cited were cheaper cellular service plans and improved network coverage around the country. The report noted that the ability to connect to the Internet was not an incentive to stay with the phone companies anymore, since households can get broadband service from their cable providers instead. Forrester Israel CEO Merlin Shaham, meanwhile, said another factor in the US market is also being discussed for implementation here in Israel. "New programs allow customers to jump from one cellular company to another while retaining the same phone number, thereby reducing the obstacles in switching service providers. Forrester's research shows that this program has helped embolden people to cut off their land lines. Customers had retained their land lines until now because they felt they could always be reached there, even if their cell numbers changed. Now, that reason is no longer there," he said. The lesson is one that may change the face of telecommunications, Shaham added. "People thought that only the cellular companies opposed the new portable cellphone numbers, because it would make it easier for customers to jump from one company to another. But now we see that the greatest potential danger is actually to Bezeq, which operates the land lines." At this point, the report concluded, the biggest factor preventing more people from abandoning their land lines is that many are afraid to rely exclusively on their cellphones. The Forrester report noted that it is not only tech-savvy youngsters making the switch - while the majority of those abandoning fixed lines were under age 35, a full 10% of people aged 35-44 had given up their wires, and more than 4% of the 45-54 age group, it said. The report also contrasted the US market with the Canadian market, where only 2% of homes with cellular phones have abandoned their fixed lines. Reasons cited were the higher prices for cellular airtime in that country, as well as greater fears of relying on only one phone.