Why keeping your landline is a waste of money

Australians remain surprisingly keen on landline phones, but if you're paying for one then you're probably spending money unnecessarily.

More than half of us (55 per cent) still have a landline, according to a recent finder.com.au survey of 2005 Australians.

Given the choice, though, we'll nearly always opt to call with our mobile phone instead. Just 29 per cent of us say that we use our landline phone regularly, and 13 per cent of us have a landline but never use it.

Unsurprisingly, the most rusted-on landline users are older, with 52 per cent of Baby Boomers still using their landline for calls, compared with 10 per cent of Generation Y. That said, 16 per cent of Boomers have ditched their landline entirely.

So why are some of us hanging on to our non-mobile phones? The most popular reason given by people in the survey was for emergency use, but even this was mentioned by only 9 per cent of respondents.

You can call the 000 emergency number from any mobile phone, even if the handset is locked by a PIN or password. If your carrier doesn't have coverage but another telco does, the call will still work. However, it won't work in remote areas where there's no mobile network at all.

The rollout of the national broadband network (NBN) to replace the existing phone system also punches a big hole in that argument.

One benefit of the current telephone network is that you can make or receive a call even if there's a power outage. However, that's not the case with the majority of NBN connections, which do require a power supply to work.

Once you're on the NBN, you can still have a landline-like phone and number if you wish, but the service will actually use the NBN network.

The only form of NBN connection that can potentially work in a power outage is if you have a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connection and have paid to install a back-up battery in your home. The majority of NBN connections won't use FTTP.

Even then, your connection may not work if the blackout has impacted other parts of the network. So realistically, you'll want to hope your mobile is charged if there is a blackout.

Relying on a mobile for emergencies is potentially more of a problem in rural areas, where coverage is patchier. Telstra claims to cover 98 per cent of the population with its network, but that still leaves close to half a million Australians who might be without any form of communication if there's a power incident.

The other reason to hang on to a landline is the belief that calls might be cheaper than using a mobile. This may have been a relevant argument when mobiles were first being rolled out, since call rates were much higher. However, that's no longer the case. Indeed, using your mobile will often be cheaper.

Searching through our database of mobile plans, the vast majority offer unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers. There are only a handful of plans that charge for Australian calls.

If you can make all the calls you want on a $20 a month plan, why pay for a landline as well? Many plans also offer free calls to overseas destinations.

At least we seem a little wiser to those issues of cost. Just 4 per cent of Australians in the survey had kept a landline for international calls. But the fact we're keeping them at all suggests we're not maximising the value of our mobile phones.

If your current provider offers you a landline (or equivalent) without extra charges, and includes unlimited calls, then there's no pressing reason to ditch it. But if you're paying a fee for it, it's definitely time to start shopping around.

  • Angus Kidman is editor in chief for comparison site finder.com.au.
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