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Bill Bennett


Hanging on to the landline

Many people reading this will already stopped using and paying for a telephone landline. Few people under 40 have a landline at home.

Naked broadband plans, internet connections without traditional phone lines, are growing fast.

Spark New Zealand is realistic enough to understand landline are a legacy product. You can buy a Spark naked broadband plan for $20 less than those with a bundled landline.

If you buy internet elsewhere, but still want a landline, Spark has plans starting at $53.50 a month.


That’s money down the drain if everyone in your house has a mobile or you can make broadband voice over IP calls.

Until a few years ago most of Spark’s revenue came from landline phone services. They now account for less than half and their share of the total declines every year.

Not only are landlines costly, at times they are annoying. In many homes, the only time the old school landline rings is when a telesales person, or worse a robot, calls. These calls are rarely welcome.

Sure, you can get sales call on a mobile, but callers often pay more to make cell call. This means mobile calling campaigns are often better targeted.

Free local calls

Forget the landline promise of free local calls. For a start, they’re not free. They are unmetered. It’s not the same thing.

You’d have to spend a lot of time chatting on a mobile to rack up $53.50 in local charges. And anyway, many mobile plans include unlimited voice calls for little more.

Despite the cost and the hassle of dealing with unwanted calls, there are reasons why you may want to hang-on to that landline. At least for now.

Reasons to keep the landline

  • Old folk. Many older New Zealanders grew up with landlines. They are unwilling to change the habits of a lifetime. You can’t force your mother, granddad or an older business client to switch — although it wouldn’t hurt to try.
  • Young folk. Everyone can use a traditional phone, even children who don’t yet have a mobile. This may seem unimportant until a child needs to make an emergency call when an adult can’t.
  • Power outages The copper phone network has its own power supply. It works fine even where the electricty lines to your home are down. You may live in an area where there are frequent blackouts. Of course many modern phone handsets, especially the wireless ones, don’t work without power. You’ll need to keep an old style phone somewhere in case.
  • Poor mobile reception. New Zealand’s mobile networks are good, but not perfect. There are black spots. Some homes are either marginal or don’t have great coverage throughout the building. If that’s you, then you’re going to need that landline for a while yet.
  • Emergencies When disaster strikes mobile networks are often congested. So long as the landlines are unbroken, the network should work, so you should be able to make calls.
  • You live in the wop wops. Despite the Rural Broadband Initiative and more mobile towers there are still places beyond cellular reach. Satellite phones are an option, but are expensive and tempermental in poor weather. Old copper phone lines laid decades ago often reach these remote places.
  • Long calls. A cellphone is good for short calls. For long sessions, say an interview that takes over an hour, it can be more comfortable to use a conventional handset or headset. And if you make frequent long, local calls, then you might squeeze the value from unmetered local calling.
  • Bad VoIP Many who drop tradition landline phone services run into problems. There are great VoIP services and there are awful ones. Some sold by ISPs are disappointing, many third-party VoIP products are worse. Geeks might not struggle to sort the wheat from the chaff but for everyday users it can be daunting.
  • Business needs. Mobiles are great and do most things. Likewise VoIP services over a broadband connection. Yet you might have good reason to hang on to your existing PBX, Centrex or other technology. At least for now. If what you have works and you’re happy with costs, don’t feel pressured to move. There’s plenty of time. The government has yet to announced a date to close the copper network.



5 thoughts on “Hanging on to the landline

  1. Another reason to keep a landline: the local cellphone towers ran out of battery power within about 24 hours of the power outage in Remuera/Ellerslie a couple of years ago, leaving a sizeable mobile blackspot. The power remained out for much longer — about 40 hours I think. By that time I’d guess just about all mobiles in the area were flat since more distant towers mean more rapid drain on existing mobile batteries which of course couldn’t be recharged. Most of the more distant towers anyway seemed out of range. I guess city towers are not built for power.

    I heard several “experts” advise that “cellphones keep going in power outages” but in my experience they certainly don’t.

    1. Good point. You might think the mobile company would have enough financial incentive to fix a tower fast in those circumstances. Often in power outages the mobile company can add a diesel power supply to a tower — but not always it seems.

  2. Many monitored alarm systems, medical and security, require a landline to work.

  3. I was going to ditch mine when the fibre was installed. However, that would have meant I lost the discount for bundling with Sky etc. It’s frustrating because it is only my parents (fine) and telemarketers (not fine) who use it. The ratio is probably 20 telemarketing calls to 1 from Mum and Dad.

    Having said that, it’s no longer technically a landline – it runs over VOIP, so if the power goes down, so does my phone.

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