Nielsen: 17% of U.S. telephone households rely on wireless

Wed, 09/17/2008 - 8:05am
Traci Patterson

More than 17 percent of U.S. telephone households (more than 20 million) are “wireless substitutors,” meaning they rely solely on a mobile phone for their home telecommunications, according to new research from Nielsen Mobile.

The research suggests that one in five U.S. households could be wireless-only by the end of 2008.

Nielsen's study reports that:

  • U.S. cord cutters tend to have lower income levels – 59 percent have household incomes of $40,000 or less.
  • Smaller households, with just one or two residents, are more likely to cut the cord than larger households.
  • Moving or changing jobs are the biggest life events associated with cord cutting – 31 percent of cord cutters moved prior to cord cutting and 22 percent changed jobs.
  • Wireless substitutors tend to use their mobile phones more than their landline peers, 45 percent more per phone, but still save an average of $33 per month in a household of one subscriber, less $6.69 for each additional wireless resident, when they cut the cord.

"As wireless network quality improves and unlimited calling becomes increasingly pervasive, we expect the trend toward wireless substitution to continue," said Alison LeBreton, vice president of client services for Nielsen Mobile. "In a tightening economy, every dollar counts, and consumers are more and more comfortable with the idea of ditching their landline connection."

But 10 percent of landline phone customers have experimented with wireless-only in their household and then returned to landline service, the research found. Nielsen reported that needing a landline for another service (security system, satellite TV, pay-per-view, fax machine, etc.) is the primary reason people mend the cord.

"Landline wireless substitution may just be the start," says LeBreton. "As wireless data networks improve and speeds become more and more competitive with broadband, some consumers may cut the Internet cord, as well, favoring wireless data cards and other access through carrier networks."

"Call My Cell: Wireless Substitution in the United States" is available as a free download here.

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